Are IVC Filters Unnecessary? Studies Suggest That May Be the Case
For several years, experts have wondered whether IVC filters are actually necessary to reduce the risk of a patient suffering a pulmonary embolism, PE. Two important studies suggest the use of an IVC filter is questionable at best.
According to a study that appeared in the September 13, 2010 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors suggested that only 51% of the IVC filter procedures they reviewed were actually needed. This came shortly after the FDA issued a warning in August 2010 regarding the high rate of device fractures, which led to damaging – and sometimes lethal – consequences.
IVC filters are typically used either when an anticoagulant medication has proven ineffective or if a patient cannot tolerate it. They are shaped somewhat like a spider or bird cage and designed to break up or catch blood clots before they get into the lungs and cause a PE.
In the study, researchers and doctors examined more than 1,500 patients suffering from blood clots that could potentially travel to the lungs or heart. IVC filters were implanted in 203 of those patients. Doctors found that IVC filters were not needed in 26% of those patients. In addition, they found patients who had a filter implanted had a 9.9% mortality rate, compared to a 5.5% mortality rate in patients who did not undergo an implantation procedure.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, published a study on April 28, 2015 examining the effectiveness of using an IVC filter plus anticoagulation medicine vs. using anticoagulation alone. The study found no difference in reducing the risk of PE. In fact, the researchers stated that their findings do no support the use of IVC filters in patients who are candidates for anticoagulation medications.