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What is an IVC Filter?
An inferior vena cava filter, or IVC filter for short, is a medical device used to treat those suffering from acute Pulmonary Embolism (PE) or  acute proximal deep vein thrombosis. Generally, IVC Filters are not the first course of action with these conditions and a regular course of anticoagulation is persued. In the event the doctor concludes there is a reason to withhold anticoagulation treatment, IVC Filters are a first course of action.
A typical IVC Filter is placed in the inferior vena cava, or large vein in the abdomen that returns blood from the lower body to the heart. The purpose of the filter is to trap bigger clot fragments and keep them from entering the lungs causing PE.  
Who Needs an IVC Filter?
Patients who are suffering from a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis above the knee are often candidates for IVC filter treatments. In many cases the conditions are initially treated with blood thinners, but the indication of long-term issues with PE or DVT or if medication does not strongly resolve patient outlook then this may cause a doctor to decide to implant an IVC Filter.
Thrombolytics may be used to dissolve clots, but since they carry the risk of sudden and severe bleeding, are not commonly used.  Diet, exercise, and even pressured stockings may also be recommended to reduce the instances and severity of blood clots before resorting to treatment with an IVC Filter.  
IVC Facts and Figures
                In 2010, over 200,000 IVC filters were sold in the United States.
                55% to 60% of IVC filters are placed by interventional or diagnostic radiologists.
                30% of IVC filters are placed by vascular surgeons.
                10% to 15% of IVC filters are placed by cardiologists.
                95% of outpatient cases of PE and DVT are treated without IVC filter.
                94% of IVC filters are placed because anticoagulant treatments do not succeed.
                As many as 25% of certain IVC filters are known to have fractured.
                71% of these fractured pieces make their way into the patients heart.