As the number of IVC filter injury-related lawsuits increases, doctors have taken a deeper look into what exactly may be causing faulty IVC filters to break. Experts believe that the movement and flattening of the vena cava, the location in which the filters are placed in order to prevent blood clots from forming in the lungs, may be the culprit.
Doctors from Baylor Scott & White Health’s Department of Radiology in Dallas reported in a study, published in the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings Journal, that the “foreshortening and flattening” of the vena cava may be the cause of injuries presented in IVC filter fracture lawsuits.
Doctors came to this conclusion after a complicated removal procedure involving a fractured Bard G2 IVC filter. The Bard G2 filter is one of the filters currently in litigation. During this particular removal procedure, the device fractured, which caused pieces of the filter to puncture the patient’s vena cava.
IVC filters are implanted into the inferior vena cava for patients who are at high-risk of suffering from a pulmonary embolism. According to their manufacturers, these small and spider-shaped filters are designed to “catch” blood clots that may form in the body, and “filter” them by allowing the clots to thin over time. This prevents the clots from migrating into the lungs, which could be fatal.
However, according to a growing number of claims raised in product liability lawsuits filed against C.R. Bard and other manufacturers of these retrievable IVC filters, many devices sold and implanted are prone to failure Reports indicate that many of these devices migrate from their original location, which causes puncturing of veins and organs in the body, often sending pieces of the device into the patient’s bloodstream.
In May of 2014, the FDA issued a warning to physicians to remove IVC filters within four to six weeks after an individual was no longer at risk of suffering a pulmonary embolism. The FDA discovered that the devices caused more problems for the patient the longer that the filter was left in place. Despite the potential harmful effects of these IVC devices, many of the manufacturers still sell the filters without properly informing doctors about the risks associated with leaving them in place for too long.
Physicians have also realized that while the retrieval of IVC filters has a relatively high success rate when removed within the first year of implantation, the procedure becomes much more complicated the longer that the filter remains in the body.
As mentioned, the large number of lawsuits brought against different IVC filter manufacturers is what prompted doctors to take a closer at the causes of the reported problems with these filters. Currently, there are over 700 pending lawsuits against C.R. Bard. These lawsuits are being presented before one judge for routine pretrial activities, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Nearly 650 Cook IVC filter lawsuits are also being brought about as part of a separate MDL.
It is expected that several thousand cases will be filed against these manufacturers on behalf of patients from all over the country. For all MDLs, “bellwether” trials are presently being prepared for trial. These trials provide an idea of how subsequent similar trials may resolve. This type of information and assessments may aid the judges and IVC filter manufacturers in determining an overall settlement amount. This allows avoidance of thousands of individual trials against these manufacturers throughout the country, which may take years of negotiations between large corporate firms and smaller plaintiff firms. So injured parties are fairly and adequately compensated, many plaintiff firms hope for success in the MDL and cooperation from the corporate defendants. MDLs do take time, therefore injured parties and their representatives look at bellwether trials as a step closer to the potential resolution.
As IVC filters continue to be marketed by manufacturers and implanted by unknowing physicians, it is expected that more patients will suffer consequent injuries. As there are more injuries, more research will be conducted regarding filter movement and fracture. As more research is conducted, one can only hope more knowledge about IVC filter failures spreads, so that eventually IVC filters are no longer implanted so frequently.