How IVC Filters Work
The inferior vena cava is the largest vein in the body. It moves de-oxygenated blood from the lower legs to the heart and then to the lungs. Doctors implant an IVC filter in the vein to prevent blood clots from traveling through the vein into the lungs.
Using a catheter, or a thin tube, a doctor inserts the device into a patient’s inferior vena cava through a small incision in the neck or groin. The device’s metal wires capture and trap blood clots before they can reach the lungs.
Some filters are permanent, and some are retrievable or temporary. Doctors remove retrievable filters in a similar way that they implant them. Health care providers inject contrast or X-ray dye around the device to make sure it is safe to proceed with the removal. A catheter-like snare goes into the vein and grabs the hook located at the end of the filter. A sheath covers the filter, and the doctor pulls the device out of the vein.