IVC filter retrieval

An IVC filter is a metal device that is positioned into the body's main vein — called the inferior vena cava (IVC) — that leads from your legs to the right side of your heart. This filter can help keep clots from being carried into your lungs. Filters are typically reserved for people who cannot take anticoagulant drugs or when anticoagulant drugs do not work well enough or fast enough.

A small catheter with the filter in the tip is usually inserted in a vein in your neck or leg, and then into the inferior vena cava. Some filters can be removed when they are no longer needed. The placement of an IVC filter does not address the cause of the initial blood clot risk.

IVC filter removal

A retrievable IVC filter may be removed when the risk of a blood clot traveling to the lungs has passed or if you can take blood thinners. Your doctor may recommend removing the filter when it is no longer needed. IVC retrieval helps reduce the risks of having an IVC filter in your body. For example, certain types of IVC filters have been found to break apart and damage the vein. Filters can also increase risks of new blood clot formation in the legs and abdomen.

The procedure to remove the IVC filter is very similar to the procedure used to place it. A small catheter-based wire loop (snare) is inserted into the large vein in the neck. A removable IVC filter contains a small hook at one end. With X-ray guidance, your doctor uses the snare to grasp the hook and withdraw the filter. If this is unsuccessful, advanced complex filter removal techniques can be used very effectively. These procedures are performed on an outpatient basis under sedation, with brief post-procedure observation and return to normal activities the next day.

IVC filter retrieval is generally recognized as safe, but it does carry some risks, including:

  • Bleeding
  • Clot formation
  • Other complications related to a filter changing position after the original placement

Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of IVC filter retrieval before you schedule the procedure.