The human heart is an amazing organ. It keeps us alive and feeds our entire body and brain with nourishing blood and oxygen. In a healthy individual, the heart beats at regular, predictable intervals. There are times, however, when you may notice your heartbeat is irregular, or your heart races, skips or flutters.
These are called heart palpitations and they can be scary.
Most often they are the result of something frightening or from feeling anxious. Certain medications or even strong coffee can cause heart palpitations. Most often they resolve on their own.
Irregular Heartbeat: A Warning of Dangers
There are times when an irregular heartbeat should not be ignored. Heart disease can be masked by an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. Congestive heart failure, a heart valve, or muscle problem can result in palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. Trauma to the heart, either blunt force or specific piercing of the heart muscle, can result in an irregular heartbeat. This symptom should never be ignored.
Consider the case of Lisa David. She was implanted with a G2 IVC filter made by CR Bard. In 2006 it fractured and a fragment migrated to her heart, causing heart issues such as an irregular heartbeat. She must remain on blood thinners for the rest of her life wondering when the other shoe will drop. She declined having it removed because of the dangers inherent in this invasive removal surgery.
Larry Johnson lost consciousness while driving when his heart was impacted by a Cook Celect IVC filter which had migrated to his heart four years after it was implanted following his 2010 knee surgery. He has undergone removal surgery of the IVC filter and has sued Cook for making and selling an allegedly defective filter. Mr. Johnson has lost wages and continues to suffer emotionally.
What are IVC Filters?
Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are placed in the vein to prevent blood clots from traveling to the heart and lungs. They are commonly used to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and the medical device is placed in patients for whom anticoagulant therapy cannot be tolerated. If, for example, someone has recently had a stroke, blood thinners might be contraindicated or not advised.
Reports are IVC filters are even being use as a prophylactic measure in anyone who might have some aversion to taking blood thinners, for any reason.
A published report from the Texas Heart Institute in 2013 outlines what happened to a 69-year old man who had a structurally normal heart. Because he had had a recent hemorrhagic stroke, he couldn’t take anticoagulation therapy and instead he was implanted with an IVC filter. Seven days later he experienced recurrent episodes of ventricular tachycardia or a fast and irregular heartbeat defined as over 100 beats per minute. In this case, the man had a heart rate of 150 beats per minute, a condition that can result in sudden cardiac deaths estimated to cause 300,000 deaths per year.
A portion of the IVC filter had broken off, essentially fractured and travelled and moved or embolized. The dangerously high heart rate occurred when a portion of the filter migrated into the right ventricle. The result was arrhythmia which was not responsive to antiarrhythmic medication.
The OptEase Retrievable Vena Cava Filter (Cordis, a Johnson & Johnson company), made of the metal alloy nitinol (nickel and titanium), had become entangled in the tricuspid valve. It was thought the valve may have been damaged by the IVC filter migration. There was considerable resistance in removing the filter as a result.
When the IVC filter was removed, another was placed, an Eclipse Vena Cava Filter made by C.R. Bard, which is also made of nitinol. The patient’s arrhythmia subsided.
Increasing Use of IVC Filters
The use of these filters is increasing over time and so are the reported complications. For example, in 1979 there were 2,000 IVC filters implanted worldwide. By 1999 that number of IVC implantations had increased to more than 49,000.
Before 2008, the literature had described just 98 intracardiac IVC filter migrations involved entry into the heart. Of those, twenty had migrated to the right ventricle.
In 2013 there were slightly more than 100 adverse events reported, more than the previous 40 years. But researchers noted device migration has increased largely due to the construction of a lighter alloy that is made increasingly flexible to ease the insertion of the filter. Additionally, these authors believe the unidirectional fixation barbs of the IVC filter legs or struts, may not properly affix to the tortuous or bending and twisting walls of the inferior vena cava vein.
As use of these new, lighter medical devices increases in the near future, the authors of this study suspect irregular heartbeat attacks will increase if the intracardiac device migrates. Doctors are warning emergency room personnel to consider the potential for this invasive medical device to cause an irregular heartbeat and to use a cardiac fluoroscopy and TTE (transthoracic echocardiogram) to identifying migrating IVC filter that might be causing an irregular heartbeat.
IVC Filter Injuries Reported
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received hundreds of reports of complications from use of IVC filters including, but not limited to, filter migration, punctured organs and blood vessels and symptoms of these adverse events are frequently an irregular heartbeat. That’s why the FDA issued a safety communication in 2014 that the retrievable IVC should be removed as soon as 29 to 54 days after they are implanted to avoid the harm that comes the longer the IVC is left in place.
Contact a Tenacious IVC Filter Irregular Heartbeat Attorney
Farah & Farah is currently investigating IVC filter related injuries nationwide. Let us help you hold large medical device manufacturers responsible for the injuries they’ve caused. Our IVC filter irregular heartbeat lawyers can be reached at (800) 533-3555.