March 14, 2016 — Researchers are warning about severe short-term and long-term complications associated with IVC filter thrombosis (blood clots), calling the complication “under-appreciated” and easily misdiagnosed.
Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are implanted near the heart to capture blood clots before they reach the lungs. Unfortunately, the filters increase the risk of blood clots in the legs, a complication known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
In a comprehensive review of IVC thrombosis published in Cardiovascular Interventions, researchers described the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. They warned:
“Counting on the physical examination to reliably yield a diagnosis is fraught with error, as the most common symptoms of IVC thrombosis are likely limb edema, discomfort, and venous varicosities, all common and non-specific findings.”
Because the symptoms are easily misdiagnosed, diagnosis and treatment is often delayed. Left untreated, IVC thrombosis causes the following rate of complications:
- 90% of patients develop post-thrombotic syndrome, a condition that causes chronic circulation problems in the legs when the veins and valves are damaged.
- 45% develop venous claudication, which involves chronic thigh/leg pain and tightness (especially with exercise) due to poor circulation in the legs.
- 30% develop pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening complication in which blood clots travel to the lungs and cause tissue damage.
- 15% develop venous ulceration, in which open sores appear on the feet or legs.
The researchers also warned about the risk of venous gangrene in the fingers and toes. The lead author of the study recommended: “Given the significant morbidity associated with IVC filter thrombosis, removal of these filters as soon as possible should be planned at the outset.”
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