IVC Filter Use Falls As Lawsuits Increase

IVC Filter Use Falls As Lawsuits Increase

A recent study found a direct connection between legal activity and less-frequent use of dangerous IVC filters.

The most significant decline occurred in heavy litigation areas, according to Dr. Ketan Patel of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Between 1993 and 2010, IVC filter implants increased almost 10 percent a year; after 2010, when the Food and Drug Administration issued a stern warning and lawsuits began to pile up, IVC filter use fell by more than 7 percent annually.

Despite the declining use, dangerous IVC filter retrieval is still a booming business. At one clinic, the number of procedures has doubled since 2009 despite the risk of serious side effects.

IVC Filter Uses and Side Effects

Retrievable inferior vena cava filters are essentially small, thin, open-ended metal cages that are designed to catch blood clots, filter them out, and allow blood to flow freely to the lungs and heart. Without such a device or a dose of anticoagulant medication, some surgical patients develop blood clots in their legs (deep vein thrombosis), and these clots can migrate to the heart and lungs.

The FDA approved IVC filters in 1979, and their use steadily increased over the years. Although the inferior vena cava is the largest blood vessel in the body, these devices are very, very small and consequently rather fragile, so they should only stay in a patient’s body for a few days. However, many doctors push the envelope in this regard, because they feel that the risk for a pulmonary embolism has not fully passed and/or they feel that the patient is not a good candidate for anticoagulants.

The aforementioned FDA alert called attention to several issues with IVC filters:

  • Migration: Some of the thin metal filters are very flimsy and cannot stay in a fixed position against what is essentially a raging torrent of blood. So, they are pushed out of position, causing severe pain and other possible complications.
  • Fracture: Sometimes, the blood flow breaks off part of the spider-like filter, and the metal fragments cause issues related to metallosis, or metal poisoning.
  • Perforation: Some IVC filters have the opposite problem. They dig in too deeply and perforate the artery, causing internal bleeding.

Damages in these cases include compensation for both tangible losses, such as medical bills, and intangible losses, such as pain and suffering. Moreover, juries usually award large punitive damages in these cases, because the device manufacturer marketed a dangerous product without even bothering to sufficiently warn patients about the known risks.

As the IVC filter issue shows, lawsuits are the best way to reduce injuries caused by defective products. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Leitchfield, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. Home and hospital visits are available.