Inferior Vena Cava Filter Removal

What is Inferior Vena Cava Filter Removal

Inferior vena cava filter removal is a procedure to take out a metal filter that was placed into a large vein in the abdomen (inferior vena cava, IVC).

An IVC filter prevents blood clots in the legs or pelvis from traveling to the heart or lungs. Some IVC filters are designed to be removed (retrievable filters).

You may have your filter removed when the danger of forming blood clots has passed or when you can take blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots. In some cases, the filter may need to be removed because it becomes damaged, is not working, or is causing problems.

Most filters can be removed through the vein (percutaneous). In the rare cases when a surgeon is unable to remove the filter percutaneously, one of these steps may be taken:

  • A more invasive, open surgery may be necessary.
  • The filter may be left in place.

Tell a health care provider about:

  • Any allergies you have.
  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Any problems you or family members have had with anesthetic medicines or with contrast dyes that are used during an imaging test.
  • Any blood disorders you have.
  • Any surgeries you have had.
  • Any medical conditions you have.
  • Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

What are the risks?

Generally, this is a safe procedure. However, problems may occur, including:

  • Infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Allergic reactions to medicines or dyes.
  • Damage to the IVC, other blood vessels, or surrounding structures.
  • A blood clot or a piece of the filter breaking loose and traveling to the heart or lungs.

What happens before the procedure?

Medicines

Ask your health care provider about:

  • Changing or stopping your regular medicines. This is especially important if you are taking diabetes medicines or blood thinners.
  • Taking medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medicines can thin your blood. Do not take these medicines unless your health care provider tells you to take them.
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements.

Staying hydrated

Follow instructions from your health care provider about hydration, which may include:

  • Up to 2 hours before the procedure – you may continue to drink clear liquids, such as water or clear fruit juice.

Eating and drinking restrictions

Follow instructions from your health care provider about eating and drinking, which may include:

  • 8 hours before the procedure – stop eating heavy meals or foods such as meat, fried foods, or fatty foods.
  • 6 hours before the procedure – stop eating light meals or foods, such as toast or cereal.
  • 6 hours before the procedure – stop drinking milk or drinks that contain milk.
  • 2 hours before the procedure – stop drinking clear liquids.

General instructions

  • Plan to have someone take you home from the hospital or clinic.
  • Plan to have a responsible adult care for you for at least 24 hours after you leave the hospital or clinic. This is important.

What happens during the procedure?

  • To lower your risk of infection:
    • Your health care team will wash or sanitize their hands.
    • Hair may be removed from the surgical area.
    • Your skin will be washed with soap.
  • An IV will be inserted into one of your veins.
  • You will be given one or more of the following:
    • A medicine to help you relax (sedative).
    • A medicine to make you fall asleep (general anesthetic).
  • The procedure will be done through a vein in your groin or neck that leads to the IVC. Your health care provider will inject a numbing medicine (local anesthetic) into the skin over the vein that will be used.
  • A small incision will be made over the vein.
  • A long, thin tube (catheter) will be inserted into the vein.
  • The catheter will be moved through your vein and into your IVC. X-rays may be done to help guide the catheter into place. Dye may be injected through the catheter before the X-rays to make the catheter and filter easier to see.
  • When the catheter reaches the filter, a hook (snare) on the end of the catheter may be used to latch onto the filter. In some cases, a grasping instrument (forceps) may be threaded through the catheter to gently grab and remove the filter instead.
  • After the filter has been hooked or grasped, the filter and instruments will be pulled out through the catheter.
  • The catheter will be removed through the incision in your skin.
  • Pressure will be placed over your incision until bleeding stops.
  • A bandage (dressing) will be placed over your incision.

The procedure may vary among health care providers and hospitals.

What happens after the procedure?

  • Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen level will be monitored until the medicines you were given have worn off.
  • Do not drive for 24 hours if you were given a sedative during your procedure.
  • You may need to stay in bed (be on bed rest) for a period of time.

Summary

  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter removal is a procedure to take out a filter that was placed to prevent blood clots from traveling to your heart or lungs.
  • You may have your filter removed when the danger of forming blood clots has passed or when you can take blood-thinning medicines to prevent blood clots. In some cases, a filter is removed because there is a problem with it.
  • The removal procedure is similar to the procedure that was used to insert the filter. A long, thin tube (catheter) will be inserted through a vein in your groin or neck. Then, the filter will be gently grasped and pulled out through the catheter.
  • Plan to have a responsible adult care for you for at least 24 hours after you leave the hospital or clinic. This is important.

Inferior Vena Cava Filter Removal, Care After

This sheet gives you information about how to care for yourself after your procedure. Your health care provider may also give you more specific instructions. If you have problems or questions, contact your health care provider.

What can I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, it is common to have:

  • Mild pain and bruising around your incision in your neck or groin.
  • Fatigue.

Follow these instructions at home:

Incision care

  • Follow instructions from your health care provider about how to take care of your incision. Make sure you:
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before you change your bandage (dressing). If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
    • Change your dressing as told by your health care provider.
  • Check your incision area every day for signs of infection. Check for:
    • Redness, swelling, or more pain.
    • Fluid or blood.
    • Warmth.
    • Pus or a bad smell.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do not take baths, swim, or use a hot tub until your health care provider approves. Ask your health care provider if you may take showers. You may only be allowed to take sponge baths.
  • Do not drive for 24 hours if you were given a medicine to help you relax (sedative) during your procedure.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider what activities are safe for you.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have chills or a fever.
  • You have redness, swelling, or more pain around your incision.
  • Your incision feels warm to the touch.
  • You have pus or a bad smell coming from your incision.

Get help right away if:

  • You have blood coming from your incision (active bleeding).
    • If you have bleeding from the incision site, lie down, apply pressure to the area with a clean cloth or gauze, and get help right away.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have difficulty breathing.

Summary

  • Follow instructions from your health care provider about how to take care of your incision.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider.
  • Check your incision area every day for signs of infection.
  • Get help right away if you have active bleeding, chest pain, or trouble breathing.
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