What are vena cava filters for treating venous disease?
Vena cava filters are special devices that are inserted into the main vein (vena cava) to prevent blood clots from moving from the vein in the legs to the lung, which would result in a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Why do I need vena cava filters?
Vena cava filters may be used as a venous disease treatment option for select patients who have a blood clot in a vein but cannot take anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, such as heparin or Coumadin, or for patients who are taking anticoagulants and continue to develop clots.
Where is the procedure performed and who performs this procedure?
The procedure is performed in the hospital by a vascular surgeon.
What are the risks and potential complications of the procedure?
Your doctor will discuss the specific risks and potential benefits of the recommended procedure with you. Placing vena cava filters is generally a very safe procedure. However as with any procedure, there may be risks. These risks include bleeding from the puncture site where the filter is placed within the vein, failure of the device to “catch” all of the blood clots leading to a pulmonary embolism, and complete blockage of the vein due to too much clot being trapped within the filter.
Special precautions are taken to decrease these risks, and there may be other possible risks. When you meet with your doctor, please ask questions to make sure you understand the risks of the procedure and why the procedure is recommended.
How do I prepare for the procedure?
A few days before the procedure, pre-procedure tests may be performed such as an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, and blood tests to ensure that it is safe to perform the surgery. You may need to discontinue certain medications before the procedure. Your health care team will provide specific instructions to help you prepare for the procedure.
What happens during the procedure?
This procedure is typically performed under local anesthetic with some sedation if necessary.
During the surgical procedure, the filter is inserted through a catheter (long, thin tube) into a large vein in the groin or neck, then into the vena cava (the largest vein in the body). It can catch clots as they move through the body to the lungs.
How long does the procedure last?
The procedure itself generally takes 20 to 30 minutes, but the preparation and recovery time add several hours to your appointment time. The majority of these procedures are performed in patients who are already admitted to the hospital. In the rare instance that this is being performed as an outpatient, you could anticipate being discharged home after a few hours.
What happens after the procedure?
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions you need to follow after the surgery. The health care team will provide specific instructions for you to follow at home after the procedure.
Are there any side effects of the treatment?
There are no specific side effects from placing a vena cava filter.
What are typical results of the procedure?
Your doctor will discuss the results of the procedure with you. For most people, this treatment will help reduce the risk of a pulmonary embolism, but will not prevent the development of more clots.
How do I find out if I am a candidate for this procedure?
To find out if you are a candidate for this procedure, please call the Vascular Surgery Department at 216.444.4508 or 800.223.2273 ext. 4-4508.