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Inferior Vena Cava Filter Placement

Inferior vena cava filter placement can reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism in patients with deep vein thrombosis.

The largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava returns oxygen-depleted blood from the lower body to the right side of the heart. An inferior vena cava filter is a small, umbrella-shaped device that can be placed during surgery to help prevent blood clots from forming in the legs and traveling to the lungs.

Conditions Treated

Inferior vena cava filter placement may be considered to reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism in a patient who has deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when blood thickens in a vein deep inside the body, such as in a leg. The veins in the legs have valves that normally help move blood toward the heart. DVT can damage these valves, causing them to malfunction or leak. As a result, blood may begin to pool in the legs, causing pain and swelling and possibly forming clots.

A clot in a leg vein can potentially break free and become attached to a blood vessel in a lung, creating a life-threatening blockage known as a pulmonary embolism. An inferior vena cava filter can trap blood clots and prevent them from moving toward the heart and lungs.

Procedure Details

When placing an inferior vena cava filter, a surgeon makes a small incision in a vein in the groin or neck, then inserts a thin, flexible tube (catheter). While referring to highly detailed images captured in real time, the surgeon gently guides the catheter into the inferior vena cava. The surgeon then sends a collapsed filter through the catheter. Once the filter is properly positioned in the inferior vena cava, it is left in place and the catheter is removed. The filter then expands and attaches itself to the walls of the inferior vena cava. It may be left in place permanently or removed after a certain period of time.

What to Expect Afterward

Immediately after an inferior vena cava filter placement, the patient will spend several hours in a recovery room while the healthcare team monitors his or her vital signs, including heart rate and breathing. If needed, pain management strategies will be provided. Most patients can go home on the same day as their procedure.

Tampa General Hospital is known for providing world-class cardiac care. Our collaboration with the University of South Florida has placed us at the forefront of innovation in the vascular treatment landscape. Our team includes nationally recognized, board-certified vascular surgeons and specialists, and we are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes for our patients.