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What is an IVC Filter and is There Litigation For Injuries?

By Mia Wang, Legal Intern

An IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) filter is a small, cone-shaped medical device that is commonly implanted into a patient’s inferior vena cava, which is the main vein that returns blood from the lower part of the body to the heart. The primary purpose of an IVC filter is to prevent blood clots from traveling from the lower extremities to the lungs (pulmonary embolism), which can be life-threatening.

The design of IVC filters typically consists of several metal struts that expand and anchor within the walls of the inferior vena cava. The device works by catching and trapping blood clots before they have an opportunity to move to the lungs, allowing blood to continue to flow around the trapped clot. Over time, the body’s natural anticoagulant processes can break down the caught blood clot.

What Are The Types of IVC Filters?

Permanent IVC Filters: These are designed to remain indefinitely in the patient’s body. They are chosen for patients who have an ongoing risk for pulmonary embolism and cannot manage their risk through blood-thinning medications.

Retrievable (or Temporary) IVC Filters: These are intended for short-term use. They are suitable for patients who have a temporary risk of pulmonary embolism. Once the risk subsides, and it is safe to do so, the filter is supposed to be removed.

Potential Complications of IVC Filters

Despite their life-saving intent, IVC filters have come under scrutiny due to potential complications and adverse events that may arise from their use. Complications can include device migration, where the filter moves away from its intended location, device fracture, where parts of the filter break off and travel through the bloodstream, and perforation of the vena cava or adjacent organs.

As a result of these risks, some patients may experience serious health consequences, which has led to IVC filter lawsuits against manufacturers. Victims claim that the manufacturers failed to sufficiently warn both patients and healthcare providers about the risks associated with these devices.

For individuals who may have suffered due to complications from an IVC filter, legal recourse may be an option. Our Law Firm specializes in medical device litigation and can offer support and advice on the viability of a legal claim and the process of seeking compensation for damages caused by these devices.

Risks of IVC Filters 

  • Device Migration
  • Filter Fracture
  • Vena Cava Perforation
  • Difficulty in Removal
  • Blood Clot Formation at the Device
  • Recurrent Pulmonary Embolism
  • Blockage of Blood Flow
  • Infection
  • Death

What are the IVC Filter Dangers? Do I have a legal claim?

The dangers associated with IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) filters include a range of serious complications that can lead to significant health problems or even life-threatening situations. Some of the recognized hazards with the use of IVC filters are:

Migration: The filter can dislodge and move away from its intended location, potentially traveling to and damaging the heart or lungs.

Fracture: Parts of the filter can break off and travel to vital organs, posing a risk of organ damage or embolism.

Perforation: The filter struts can puncture the vein and adjacent organs, leading to internal bleeding or serious injury.

Thrombosis: Blood clots can form around the filter, increasing the risk of a blockage in the IVC and leading to complications such as leg swelling, pain, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Recurrent Pulmonary Embolism: There have been instances where patients with an IVC filter still experienced pulmonary embolism.

Difficulty with Filter Removal: Over time, the filter might become embedded in the vein wall, making it difficult or even impossible to remove without causing injury.

Infection: Although less common, any invasive procedure introduces the risk of infection, particularly when a device is left inside the body.

Patients and attorneys have initiated lawsuits against IVC filter manufacturers, alleging that these companies knew or should have known about the risks but failed to properly inform the medical community and patients.

If you suspect you have been harmed by an IVC filter, it is advisable to:

Seek Medical Assessment: Confirm the nature and extent of any health issues with your doctor.

Document Your Experience: Record all relevant dates, types of medical treatment, and communication with healthcare providers.

Preserve Evidence: Keep any medical records, the IVC filter packaging, and if the filter has been removed, the device itself, if possible.

Consult a Lawyer: Speak to an attorney who specializes in medical device litigation to evaluate your case and advise you on the legal proceedings, potential compensation, and time frame to file a claim, as there are statutes of limitations to consider.

Why is My IVC Filter Leaking?

Determining if your IVC filter is “leaking,” a term often used to describe device failure or a breach in its integrity, can be challenging without medical diagnostics, as there may not be any overt symptoms.

Typically, complications related to IVC filters include migration, perforation, or fracture rather than leakage. If you have an IVC filter and are experiencing unexplained symptoms such as severe pain, abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, internal bleeding, or signs of an infection, it is critical that you seek immediate medical attention.

A healthcare provider may perform a variety of diagnostics, such as X-rays, CT scans, or ultrasounds, to determine the condition and position of your IVC filter. These tests can reveal if the filter has moved, broken, or punctured any nearby tissues or vessels.

It is important to regularly monitor the position and functionality of an IVC filter through routine follow-ups as recommended by your doctor, even if you’re not currently experiencing any adverse symptoms.

If there is evidence of device failure or migration, your doctor will assess the situation and recommend the appropriate course of action, which could include the removal of the filter if it is deemed safe and necessary. If a faulty IVC filter has caused health problems, consulting with a legal professional may be an important next step to address potential compensation for your injuries.

Who is Responsible for IVC Filter injuries?

Device manufacturers hold a significant responsibility when it comes to IVC filter injuries due to their central role in the design, production, and distribution of these medical devices. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe for intended use and to provide clear and adequate warnings about any potential risks associated with their products. In cases where IVC filters cause injuries or complications, manufacturers may be found liable under several legal theories:

Design Defects: If the design of the IVC filter is inherently flawed and poses a risk to patients, manufacturers could be held responsible for any resulting injuries. The plaintiff must demonstrate that there was a feasible and safer alternative design that the manufacturer could have employed.

Manufacturing Defects: When injuries result from a defect that occurs during the manufacturing process, and the IVC filter does not meet the intended design specifications, the manufacturer can be liable for those defects.

Failure to Warn: This refers to inadequate labeling, instructions, or warnings that do not sufficiently inform medical practitioners and patients of the potential adverse outcomes. If a manufacturer does not provide clear and complete information about the risks and proper use of the IVC filter, they can be held accountable if injuries occur.

Negligence: If the manufacturer did not follow a reasonable standard of care in designing, producing, or testing the IVC filter, or failed to conduct proper safety checks, this carelessness can be grounds for liability.

What Should I Do if My IVC Filter Is Defective?

Seek Medical Attention: Contact your doctor or go to an emergency department right away if you have symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, excessive bleeding, or other troubling signs. Your healthcare provider can perform diagnostic tests, such as imaging scans, to evaluate the condition and placement of the filter.

Gather Documentation: Collect all medical records related to your IVC filter implantation and any follow-up care or complications. This includes records of the original surgery, details of the device, and any reports from diagnostic tests.

Document Symptoms and Timeline: Keep a detailed journal of any symptoms, complications, and treatment efforts related to your IVC filter. Also, note dates and details of the initial implantation and any other relevant timeline information.

Retain the Device (if removed): If the filter is removed, ensure the retrieval is properly documented, and, if possible, arrange for the device to be preserved as it may serve as critical evidence in a legal claim.

Consult a Product Liability Attorney: Speak with any of our lawyers experienced in medical device law to assess the possibility of seeking legal recourse. We can advise you on your rights, the merits of your case, and any deadlines for filing a claim.

What May Be Included in My Settlement?

Many factors will determine a settlement if the Port-a-Cath injury is related to defects, such as (but not limited to):

  • Physical/bodily harm
  • Permanent and/or life-altering injuries
  • Past and future pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement and scarring of the body
  • Past, present, and future medical bills/expenses
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium to non-injured spouse
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