Considerations for Imaging the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) with/without IVC Filters

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Abstract

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT), thrombosis of the inferior vena cava, and pulmonary embolism (PE) constitute a continuum that includes venous thromboembolic (VTE) disease. VTE is the third most common cardiovascular disorder that affects all races, ethnicities, gender, and ages. VTE predominantly affects the elderly population, exponentially increasing in incidence with increasing age. Venous thromboembolism is not only a singular event but a chronic disease and has been found to have a rate of recurrence approaching 40% among all patients after 10 years. Whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, once thromboembolism is suspected, objective methods are required for the accurate and confirmatory presence of a thrombus with imaging as the next step in the diagnostic algorithm. Imaging also allows for the determination of the extent of clot burden, clot propagation, occlusive versus nonocclusive thrombus, acute versus chronic thrombus, or in some cases thrombus recurrence versus thrombophlebitis. Vena caval filter placement is, in some instances, required to prevent a significant subsequent VTE event. Placement of these therapeutic devices paradoxically promotes thrombus formation, and other sequelae may arise from the placement of inferior vena cava filters. In this article, the authors provide an overview of available techniques for imaging the vena cava with or without a filter and discuss advantages and drawbacks for each.

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