Key Points about Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) Filter Placement

  • An inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placement is a device used to stop a blood clot from entering the lungs. 
  • Your doctor may use the IVC filter if you have a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or are at risk for a pulmonary embolism. 
  • An interventional radiologist will perform an inferior vena cava filter placement. During the procedure, your doctor will make an incision to access the vein leading to the vena cava and will insert the filter into the vena cava. The filter will expand and attach to the walls of the vessel.
  • The procedure takes approximately one hour. While you will go home a few hours after the procedure, you should have an adult to take you home. 


An IVC filter is used to prevent a pulmonary embolism. The small, wiry filter is placed in the inferior vena cava and catches blood clots before they move into the heart and lungs.

Candidates for an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter

Your doctor may recommend an IVC filter if you have a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism if you have had these conditions in the past or are at risk for developing a DVT. 

Factors or conditions that increase your chance of getting a DVT include:

  • Having surgery recently. Surgery decreases your mobility and increases inflammation in the body, which can cause clotting.
  • Limited mobility potentially caused by an injury or stroke.
  • Traveling for an extended period, which limits your ability to move.
  • Injury to a deep vein in the leg.
  • Genetic blood disorders that increase your risk of clotting.
  • Being Pregnant.
  • Getting cancer treatment.
  • Smoking.
  • Being obese or overweight.

Preparing for inferior vena cava filter

Your doctor will outline all the benefits and risks of using an inferior vena cava filter before the procedure. You may be asked to sign a consent form that permits your medical team to perform the procedure.   

Inform your doctor of any medications you take, including over-the-counter medicines, herbal medicines, or supplements. Your doctor will let you know if you need to stop taking any medications, such as blood thinners, before surgery.

If you smoke, stop smoking before surgery. Smoking can prevent healing. 

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery. 

If you have allergies, have a fever, are pregnant, or have a problem with sedation, inform your medical team before the procedure.

Expectations during an inferior vena cava filter

An inferior vena cava filter placement is performed by an interventional radiologist with a team of nurses.

In preparation for the procedure, an IV will be placed in your arm or hand. Medication to make you relaxed and sleepy will be given through this line. The area will also be numbed with local anesthesia. 

Your doctor will make a small incision to access a vein leading to the inferior vena cava. A catheter will be threaded into the vein. The catheter will be moved to the inferior vena cava using fluoroscopy (X-rays). Contrast dye is injected into the catheter to help the inferior vena cava show up on the X-ray. 

Your doctor will insert the filter into the inferior vena cava, where it will expand and attach to the vessel walls. 

The catheter is removed, and the incision site is closed. 

Duration of an inferior vena cava filter

An inferior vena cava filter placement takes approximately one hour.  After the procedure, you will spend a few hours in the recovery room. 

Recovery and results after an inferior vena cava filter

  • When you wake up in the recovery room, you may feel sleepy or confused. Your care team will monitor your heart rate and breathing and give you pain meds if necessary. 
  • You may feel nauseous or have a headache, but these side effects should go away relatively quickly.
  • Most patients can go home after the procedure. You will need to have an adult driver to take you home.
  • You could experience minor pain or bruising at the incision site during recovery. Rest and avoid strenuous activity for at least one day.

Contact your doctor if your limbs feel numb or cold, if you are bleeding at the incision site, you have swelling or pain that is worsening, you have a fever, chest pain or headache or nausea that will not go away.

Your doctor will give you strict instructions before leaving the hospital. Follow these instructions carefully. Instructions may include:

  • Take blood thinner medication to prevent blood clots. 
  • Schedule follow up monitoring appointments to ensure the filter is in the correct place. 
  • Take all medications as prescribed.

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