Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Part 2c: IVC Filter - Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis Clots from Killing Me

What is an IVC Filter?

My IVC (inferior vena cava) filter is a wonderful little safe guard that I'm really very grateful for. The basic function of it is to essentially work as a tea strainer; it allows blood to pass through but traps any clots that might have broken off and attempting to lodge themselves in my lungs, brain or heart. It can also work as a warning mechanism in the future but causing swelling in my legs if there has been a clot caught in the filter.

The Procedure

Actually having the filter fitted was a strange experience. I was taken down to the radiology department on my bed and transfered across to the 'operating' table which had what looked to be a mobile CT scanner. I was then hooked up via my cannula to a sedative and contrast fluid (so they could see where they were going) whilst they were explaining the procedure to me. The sedative was the oddest sensation I have ever experienced, it was like being asleep yet being perfectly aware of what was going on at the same time but not caring about the pain or tugging feeling.

The procedure was fairly simple and uninteresting. The surgeon opened up the big vein in my neck and put in a catheter, using the image-guiding equipment, that went down through the venous system until it got to some where around the bottom of my rib cage and the top of my tummy button. It was uncomfortable during the procedure but the sedation and the two lovely nurses talking me through it really helped: one thing I would recommend is that you find a lovely nurse to come with you, it'll be great experience for them and you'll have someone to comfort you during a scary time.

Once the bleeding had stopped (my blood was still quite thin from the heparin even though it was stopped a couple of hours beforehand) I was wheeled back up to my ward where I slept off the sedation for a couple of hours. I was woken up by my vascular surgeon who reassured me that the procedure had been a success and that he wanted to leave the filter in for a least 4 weeks although he was unsure whether or not to keep the filter in permanently, but we would cross that bridge at my review.

Thoughts on the Filter

Having the filter really made a difference in my recovery as I could assure myself that I was getting further out of the danger zone and I could actually start to move around again, at least once the catheter was out. It's like having an emotional and psychological support that no-one else can provide, one piece of plastic that's keeping out the death clots. To be honest I'm all about keeping the filter in, mainly for the early warning system and security that it can give me.

Here's part 2b, part 2a and part 1 for your reading also.


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