High Costs, No Benefits, Potentially Dangerous: IVC Filters Under Fire

A new study indicates what many within the healthcare industry have increasingly come to suspect about IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) filters: the device is not associated with a reduction in patient mortality. At the same time, the implantation of the filters during catheter-based lytic therapy procedures has significantly increased treatment costs. It seems patients and their insurance providers are paying a lot of money for very little in the way of results.

Sales Pressure Behind Rise of IVC Filters, Not Efficacy

According to the new analysis, more than one-third of patients undergoing thrombolysis of deep vein thrombosis are outfitted with an IVC filter, which is a tiny, spider-like device designed to capture blood clots before they wreak havoc further along in the circulatory system.

And while the devices may work as intended, there is no evidence that they reduce patient mortality related to the procedures. Meanwhile, the extended hospital stays required by the procedure to implant the IVC filters typically raises the costs of medical treatment significantly.

Over the past twenty years, the use of IVC filters has become increasingly common during procedures like thombolysis. Concomitantly, costs associated with these procedures have risen. Yet the positive effect of the devices has been negligible at best. 

Benefits of Sales of IVC Filters Accrue to Manufacturers, Not Patients

The real winner in the rise of IVC filters, however, has been the manufacturers of the technology. Indeed, many critics of the filters suggest that more and more sales pressure - and not the actual effects of the technology - are responsible for their prevalence and potential overuse in medicine today. Moreover, many doctors have noted that patients who can tolerate blood thinners often do much better without the IVC filters.

The Dark Side of IVC Filters

IVC filters may be worse than a costly, useless technology; they may be dangerous. Approximately 8,000 lawsuits are now making their way through federal court. At the heart of the issue is the failure of certain manufacturers of IVC filters to warn physicians and patients of the dangerous side effects that might arise from the filters, including migration, perforation, embolization, and punctures. The two largest manufacturers involved in the litigation are C.R. Bard and Cook Medical. Other IVC filter makers, Rex Medical, Argon Medical, and B. Braun also face lawsuits in state and federal courts.

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