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FDA Warns of Problems with Blood Clot IVC Filters

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After receiving more than 900 reports of problems with IVC filters over the last five years, federal regulators are warning doctors to remove the filters, which are meant to prevent pulmonary embolisms, before they can break free inside the patient and do damage. 

The FDA issued a safety alert this week for inferior vena cava (IVC) filters. The IVC filters are placed inside patients to prevent blood clots from breaking free and traveling to the lungs or heart and causing a pulmonary embolism. However, the FDA is telling doctors they should remove the filters once the danger of the clot has passed, or else the filters could break free and travel through the body of the patient.

The FDA warning notes that the agency has received 921 adverse event reports involving problems with IVC filters implanted. Of those, 328 involved the filter breaking free and migrating through the body, 146 involved components breaking loose, 70 involved the IVC being perforated and 56 reports were of the filters fracturing. While the agency did not detail the types of injuries resulting due to the side effects of IVC filter failure, it did note that some of the events led to “adverse clinical outcomes” for the patients.

The agency’s recommendations are that physicians remove the filters, which are designed to be retrievable, once the threat of pulmonary embolism has passed. The FDA warning said that all physicians are encouraged to consider the benefits and health risks of IVC filter removal for each patient.

A pulmonary embolism can occur when blood clots travel through the blood stream and becomes lodged near the lung. This can cause a sudden blockage of the artery that brings blood into the lungs, causing serious and potentially fatal injuries.

In conjunction with the FDA warning, a clinical study was published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine that highlights the high failure rate of C.R. Bard’s Bard Recovery and Bard G2 IVC filters. An editorial accompanying the article says the problem with the Bard IVC filters highlights the failures of the FDA’s 510(k) premarket approval system, which has come under heavy fire in the last year.

Researchers found that the Bard IVC filter problems appear to be both commonplace and severe, with sometimes deadly results. The clinical trial involved 80 patients who received either the Bard Recovery or the Bard G2 filters. Of those, 13 of the patients had at least one strut that was part of the IVC filter fail.

The Bard Recovery, the older of the two filter designs, was the worst, with a failure rate of 25%. Of the seven out of 28 Bard Recovery filters that failed, five of them (71%) resulted in a piece of the filter traveling to the patient’s heart. Three patients experienced life-threatening complications, and one of them died as a result.

The Bard G2 filters had a failure rate of about 12%, with six of the 52 implants fracturing. In two cases, parts of the filters broke off and traveled through the patient’s body.

Researchers pointed out that addressing the problems of failed filters could require open-heart surgery. They also noted that the patients receiving the filters generally have a much higher mortality rate than the average population, making them even more vulnerable to IVC filter problems. They also said they suspect the failure rates would have been higher if the filters would have been left in longer.

The editorial, by Dr. Rita F. Redberg, an editor with the medical journal, points out that both of the Bard IVC filters involved in the study were approved using the expedited 510(k) approval process, which only requires that a medical device be substantially equivalent to a device already on the market for approval. The filters were categorized as Class II medical devices, the same classification as mercury thermometers, and were approved without any clinical data of safety and effectiveness.

The editorial comes as FDA officials and lawmakers are considering ways to strengthen the FDA’s control of medical devices and close some of the loopholes in the 510(k) premarket approval process.

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58 comments

  1. Me Reply

    I had an ivc green field filter placed in 2003 after taking orth Vera birth control patch an just a couple of days ago I find out it has tilted I am so worried bout what’s gonna happened next

  2. Linda Reply

    I have a filter in and where they implanted it 3 years ago I got a very sharp stabbing pain earlier today and it hurts like crazy. I hate going to hospital or Dr just wondering if anyone else has experienced this?

  3. Robert Reply

    My wife died april 2016 from pulmonary embolism. She had a Greenfield filter put in on Dec 2004. The last 2 months of her life she could hardly breath of do anything and was in pain. I’m mad as hell. No one told us of the problem with the filters. Her heart was pooling blood and clots were going to her lungs.

  4. Mike Reply

    Linda, if you haven’t already gone PLEASE go seek medical attention. One of my closest friends had similar symptoms and did not get help. Today he is on his way to the MAYO clinic hoping they can save his life. Second to that is the hope they can save at least one leg. His IVC clogged resulting in severe DVT. So again, PLEASE get yourself looked at as soon as you can.

  5. Brian Reply

    I has a greenfield filtre put In over 14 years and I hace has so many bad Health issues ala heart, upper Gi bleeding, blood tranfusions etc. Whats should I do? Scared anda feel lo

  6. Jacqueline Reply

    I had two blood clots in lungs (one in 2001 and a second in 2002). Prior to surgery on October 23, 2003, I had a Greenfield IVC filter placed in October 2003. Do I need to be concerned?

  7. Dovie Reply

    My oldest sister (72y/o) had blood clots in one leg several years ago. Diagnosed with DVT ‘too many to count’.
    When she needed hip replacement a few years later, her doctor put the screen. That was probably a little over 20 years ago. She has never had any issues with the screen. But recently she is having spells of weakness with confusion that occurs any time she gets up walk around or especially while taking a shower. She gets very weak, almost passes out, numbness on one side, partially blind in one eye… and very confused. She isn’t even able to turn off the water because she is so confused. She couldn’t remember how to turn on her washing machine a few days ago. Thankfully the symptoms subside after a few minutes.
    She has had multiple surgeries due to severe arthritis and doesn’t want any more surgery. Therefore it’s difficult to get her to the doctor and she definitely refuses to go to ER.
    Do you think this could be something to do with the filter? It has something to do with circulation because walking around brings on the spells and especially getting in a warm shower.
    Any advice on what to ask her family doctor? Or is this even possibly a connection to the screen?

  8. Michael Reply

    I have had a Greenfield since 1996. Just found out its perforated and almost closed with fatty tissue. One leg is perforated into my vertebra. I se death caused by me trusting doctors

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