Veins: Inferior Vena Cava Filters (IVC)

An IVC filter is a device that often resembles an umbrella without the nylon covering. The filter is placed in a large vein in the body, the inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is the large blood vessel responsible for blood return to the heart from the lower half of the body. The purpose of the filter is to catch or break up clot that may be in the lower body large veins and prevent the clots from reaching the heart or lungs. A large clot reaching the lung (pulmonary embolism) can potentially be fatal.


Often patients who have clot in large deep veins in the legs are placed on blood thinners. Patient’s who may not be eligible or have failed blood thinners can be candidates for IVC filters.


The filter is placed either from the vein in the neck or a vein in the groin. Our interventional specialists will make a determination as to the best approach for placement. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia. The vein is entered using ultrasound guidance and placement of the filter is done under xray guidance. At the end of the procedure, the patient will have a very small (few mm) nick in the skin.

Example of filter in a patient:


In some patients, the IVC filter can be removed. The procedure is done as an outpatient. Most modern filters are designed for potential removal. Our interventional specialists will see you in consultation and will determine whether you may be eligible to have your filter removed.