What Is an IVC Filter?

An inferior vena cava filter is a cone-shaped metal device that prevents blood clots from traveling to the lungs, according to Cleveland Clinic. Doctors place this device in the inferior vena cava to catch blood clots that have broken loose, explains the University of Michigan Health System. The inferior vena cava filter allows blood to continue flowing around the blood clot.

There are two types of inferior vena cava filters, mainly the permanent filters and optionally retrievable filters, reports Cleveland Clinic. Doctors choose a filter based on the patient's risk factors, his ability to take blood thinners and the length of time he is at risk of developing blood clots.

During the placement procedure, the doctor gives the patient drugs to help him relax and numbs the insertion site with local anesthesia, according to Cleveland Clinic. He inserts the inferior vena cava filter through a vein in the neck or the groin. The inferior vena cava filter helps prevent blockage of the pulmonary artery, which causes pulmonary embolism, explains the University of Michigan Health System.

Doctors recommend inferior vena cava filter placement for patients who have suffered from a pulmonary embolism recently, have blood clots in the deep veins of their legs or in their pelvis or who have large clots in their inferior vena cava, explains the University of Michigan Health System. The filter does not stop the formation of blood clots, but with time, the body's anticoagulants break down the trapped blood clot.