An inferior vena cava filter, or IVC filter, is a medical device designed to prevent blood clots from traveling into the heart or lungs. They are primarily used in patients who, for myriad reasons, cannot take blood thinners. When they work properly, IVC filters have the potential to save lives. When they fail, they have the potential to cost them.
Now a number of defective medical device lawsuits have been brought around the country against IVC filter manufacturer C.R. Bard, alleging that the pharmaceutical manufacturer failed to warn doctors and patients of the potential risks associated with the product. Some suits may also allege that C.R. Bard’s filters are defective, which has led to adverse effects. As of August 2015, all federal cases have been consolidated into a court in the District of Arizona, and it is expected that more and more victims will join the suit in the future.
What is an IVC filter?
IVC filters look a lot like a whisk with the rounded part chopped off. They act like tiny cages for blood clots. The Cleveland Clinic explains that the “filter is inserted through a catheter (long, thin tube) into a large vein in the groin or neck, then into the vena cava (the largest vein in the body).” It “catches” the blood clots as they travel through the vein and holds them in place. Over time, the clots will break up on their own. Most IVC filters can be removed when they are no longer needed.
Potential risks and injuries
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks to have an IVC filter placed in your body. The defective medical device lawsuits, however, allege that C.R. Bard’s product – specifically, the filter from the Recovery line – had a defect which not only increased the risks, but also created new ones. According to an FDA safety communication (published in 2010 and updated in 2014), some of the problems associated with IVC filters include:
- “Device migration
- Filter fracture
- Embolization (movement of the entire filter or fracture fragments to the heart or lungs)
- Perforation of the IVC
- Difficulty removing the device
The FDA also claims that on some occasions, IVC filters fail to perform their duty, leading to lower limb deep vein thrombosis – the scientific way of saying that blood clots might form in a person’s legs.
NBC News reports than more than 300 “non-fatal problems” have been linked to the Recovery filter, as well as potentially 27 deaths. The research recounts the story of a woman who needed emergency heart surgery after a piece of the filter broke off and pierced her heart, and another story of a woman whose entire filter was pushed into her heart by the force of the clot it was supposed to catch. The first patient lived; the second, sadly, did not.
It is likely that these cases will take time to sort out, especially as new victims and their families in Washington, D.C. and West Virginia come forward. For more information about IVC filters or the defective medical device lawsuits which as being filed, we invite you to contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC.