Vena Cava Filter Implantation
Vena cava filter implantation is a procedure to place a device in the inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is the large vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart. The device is a filter that traps blood clots in the lower body. This prevents the clots from traveling to the lungs.
You may need a vena cava filter if you’re at risk for a pulmonary embolism (PE) and anticoagulation medicine has failed or shouldn’t be used because of medical reasons. A PE canhappen when a blood clot that has formed in the leg travels to the lungs. This can block blood flow in the lungs and cause death.
During vena cava filter implantation, a thin tube called a catheter is used to place (implant) a filter in the inferior vena cava (IVC). Some vena cava filters are permanent. Others are temporary. These can be removed when no longer needed. The procedure may be done while you’re already in the hospital for other health reasons. Or, it may be done as a same-day (outpatient) procedure.
Preparing for the procedure
Tell your healthcare provider if you:
Take any medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines. It also includes herbs and other supplements. You may need to stop taking some or all of them before the procedure.
Are allergic to any medicines. This includes iodine and dye used during some imaging tests.
Have other health problems, like diabetes or kidney problems.
Are pregnant or may be pregnant.
Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.
The day of the procedure
The procedure takes about
Before the procedure begins
Here’s what to expect:
An intravenous (IV) line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line supplies fluids and medicines.
You’ll be given medicine (anesthesia) to keep you free of pain during the procedure. You’ll likely receive medicine to help you relax and feel sleepy (sedation).
During the procedure
Here’s what to expect:
Numbing medicine (local anesthesia) is injected into the area where the catheter will be placed.
The catheter is inserted through the puncture and into a vein that leads to the inferior vena cava.
X-rays or ultrasound are used during the procedure. The pictures help the healthcare provider correctly place the vena cava filter. If X-rays are used, dye (contrast fluid) is first injected through the catheter. The contrast fluid helps make the vein more visible on the X-rays. If ultrasound is used, gel is first applied to the skin. A device called a transducer is then moved over the skin. It sends pictures of the blood vessels to a video screen.
Once the catheter is positioned, the filter is then passed through the catheter and placed.
After the filter is securely attached, the catheter is removed. Pressure is applied to the insertion site to stop any bleeding. A bandage is then placed over the site.
After the procedure
You’ll be taken to a recovery room to rest. There, you’ll be given medicines to manage pain and prevent infection. You may be taken to your hospital room. Or, you may be released to go home after several hours. Have an adult family member or friend ready to drive you home.
Recovering at home
Once at home, follow any instructions you’ve been given. Be sure to:
Take all medicines as directed.
Keep the area where the catheter was inserted clean and dry. Make sure you follow all instructions about taking care of the area.
Check for increased redness, pain, swelling, or drainage at the catheter insertion site.
Walk at least a few times a day. Increase your speed and distance as you feel able. This helps improve blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Avoid lifting and other activities as directed.
Avoid driving until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. Do not drive if you’re taking medicines that make you drowsy or sleepy.
Call 911 or get emergency help if you have any of the following
These symptoms may mean a blood clot in your lungs:
Coughing (may cough up blood)
Call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of these symptoms:
100.4° F( 38° C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Increased redness, swelling, pain, or drainage where the catheter was inserted. These symptoms may mean you have an infection.
Increased bleeding where the catheter was inserted
Pain, swelling, or redness in either leg. These symptoms may mean you have a blood clot.
Other changes in the area where the catheter was inserted. For example, numbness or trouble moving your leg if the catheter was inserted into your upper leg area
Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. And, make sure you keep all follow-up appointments with the healthcare provider who performed the procedure.
Risks and possible complications
These include the following:
Bleeding or infection at the catheter insertion site
Damage to the vein used for the procedure
Problems due to contrast fluid, like an allergic reaction or kidney damage
Incorrect placement of the filter
Filter may become clogged with clots and block blood flow, which may cause severe leg swelling
Filter may break
Filter may loosen, change location, or float to another location in the body, like the heart or lungs
Risks of anesthesia or other medicines used during the procedure