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Vena Cava Filters

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 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.

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.

Doctors vary in quality due to differences in training and experience; hospitals differ in the number of services available. The more complex your medical problem, the greater these differences in quality become and the more they matter.

Clearly, the doctor and hospital that you choose for complex, specialized medical care will have a direct impact on how well you do. To help you make this choice, please review our Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Outcomes.

Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute Vascular Medicine Specialists and Surgeons

Choosing a doctor to treat your vascular disease depends on where you are in your diagnosis and treatment. The following Heart and Vascular Institute Sections and Departments treat patients with all types of vascular disease, including blood clotting disorders:

Section of Vascular Medicine: for evaluation, medical management or interventional procedures to treat vascular disease. In addition, the Non-Invasive Laboratory includes state-of-the art computerized imaging equipment to assist in diagnosing vascular disease, without added discomfort to the patient. Call Vascular Medicine Appointments, toll-free 800-223-2273, extension 44420 or request an appointment online.

Department of Vascular Surgery: surgery evaluation for surgical and interventional treatment of vascular disease, including aorta, peripheral artery, and venous disease. Call Vascular Surgery Appointments, toll-free 800-223-2273, extension 44508 or request an appointment online.

You may also use our MyConsult second opinion consultation using the Internet.

The Heart and Vascular Institute also has specialized centers and clinics to treat certain populations of patients:

Learn more about experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular and arterial disease.


If you need more information, click here to contact us, chat online with a nurse or call the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Resource & Information Nurse at 216.445.9288 or toll-free at 866.289.6911. We would be happy to help you.

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Reviewed: 02/16

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