IVC Filter Placement and Retrieval

Expert Care for People with IVC Filters

Columbia's interventional radiologists offer comprehensive care for people with IVC filters—including consultations, advanced removal techniques, and follow up care. We perform hundreds of inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement and removal procedures each year, including complicated cases and filters that have had previous unsuccessful retrieval attempts.

An IVC filter is a tiny metal device—resembling the frame of an umbrella—that doctors place in a major vein called the inferior vena cava to catch blood clots that are at risk of traveling to the lungs. IVC filters are used to treat a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), in which a blood clot develops deep in one of your primary veins, usually in the leg. DVT is potentially life-threatening because the clot can break free and travel through the bloodstream to your lungs, where it can cause heart and lung collapse, called pulmonary embolism.

DVT is usually treated with blood thinners (anticoagulants). For patients who are not able to take blood thinners, an IVC filter is the next best option. When the risk of pulmonary embolism has passed, the filter is often removed to avoid long-term complications.

IVC Filter Care at Columbia

Follow up care is important for people with IVC filters, because the filters can move, damage the placement site, or cause other serious complications over time. Even permanent IVC filters carry risks and should be evaluated and removed if possible.

A consultation with an interventional radiologist will determine if your IVC filter should be removed, regardless of where or when it was placed. Each of our patients has a unique set of circumstances; we will discuss your overall health, and we may schedule an imaging exam to determine the best course of action for you. 

Our team has extensive experience with both standard filter removals and complicated cases, such as embedded filters, using the most advanced techniques available today.

What to Expect From an IVC Filter Procedure

IVC filter placement or removal is usually an office-based procedure performed in our out-patient locations. Please be sure to have someone available to drive you home after the procedure.

How do I get ready for the procedure?

On the night before the procedure eat a light meal, then do not eat or drink anything after midnight. We will provide you with more detailed information about which medications you may take in days before and on the morning of the procedure. Plan to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

What will happen during the procedure?

After you arrive at the interventional radiology suite and change into a gown, you will lie face up on the procedure table. To relax you and block any pain we will intravenously give you a combination of medicines called “conscious sedation.”

  • To place an IVC filter: We will insert a long, very thin tube called a catheter through a small incision in a vein in your neck or groin. The IVC filter is mounted on the tip of the catheter; it is closed or “collapsed” at the time of insertion. Using X-ray or ultrasound guidance we will advance the catheter to the target location in the vein and open or “deploy” the filter, then withdraw the catheter. The filter is designed so that it will anchor itself to the blood vessel walls. The procedure is usually completed within one hour.
  • To remove an IVC filter: We will insert a long, very thin tube called a catheter through a small incision in a vein in your neck or groin. Using X-ray or ultrasound guidance, we will advance the catheter to the site of the filter. A removable IVC filter has a small hook or knob at one end that enables the catheter to capture the filter, close it, pull it into the catheter and then withdraw it from the body. We use advanced removal techniques for permanent or more complicated filter removals. The procedure can take between one and four hours, depending on the complexity of the filter.

Are there any risks?

As with any procedure, there are some risks. Risks include infection, bleeding, and rarely a shift or movement of the filter after it is put in. Your doctor will discuss all the risks and benefits with you in detail.

After the procedure

After the procedure we will have you rest in the recovery area. Your doctors will monitor you closely for several hours.

If you had an IVC filter placed, we will schedule a follow up in six to eight weeks to discuss if and when it can come out.