Patient Care

Suboptimal Outcomes Using IVC Filters for VTE Prophylaxis, Treatment


Clinical question: In patients who undergo inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement for venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis or treatment, what are the associated patient characteristics, indications for placement, complications, retrieval date, and use of concomitant anticoagulant therapy?

Background: Retrievable IVC filters were designed to provide short-term protection from pulmonary embolism but are often left in place indefinitely. Retrievable IVC filters that are not removed can carry significant long-term risks. Further, the use of filters for VTE prophylaxis is controversial, and there are multiple sets of conflicting guidelines for filter insertion provided by various professional groups.

Study design: Retrospective review of IVC filter use over an eight-year period.

Setting: Boston Medical Center.

Synopsis: Medical records from all patients at Boston Medical Center who had a billing code for placement of an IVC filter between August 2003 and February 2011 were manually reviewed. Nine hundred fifty-two medical records were evaluated, of which 679 (71.3%) patients had retrievable IVC filters placed. The most common indications for filter placement were trauma (50.2%), malignancy (15.9%), and bleeding during anticoagulation (11.8%).

In total, 448 patients (47.1%) had filters placed for prophylactic purposes in the absence of documented VTE. Seventy-four patients developed VTE after filter placement; 48.2% of post-filter insertion VTEs occurred in patients who had no VTE prior to the filter; and 89.4% occurred in patients not receiving anticoagulants. An attempt was made to remove 71 of 679 (10.5%) retrievable filters, and 58 (8.5%) attempts were successful. There were 10 serious complications related to mechanical filter failure, including migration or fracture of the filter.

In this study, there was a high volume of filter use by the trauma service; thus, the patient population might be different from the hospital medicine patient population. The study also lacked systematic imaging and follow-up data. Further studies are needed to analyze the risks associated with IVC filter placement.

Bottom line: Use of IVC filters for VTE treatment and prophylaxis, in the context of low filter retrieval rates and lack of appropriate anticoagulant therapy, results in suboptimal outcomes.

Citation: Sarosiek S, Crowther M, Sloan M. Indications, complications, and management of inferior vena cava filters: the experience in 952 patients at an academic hospital with a level I trauma center. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173:513-517.

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