Medical Minute 3-11: DVT: Removing Deadly Filters

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Susan Karnstedt and her family have always lived active lives.

"We're big hikers, bikers, waterskiing, wake-boarding. We love all the snow sports," she said.

But all those adventures stopped when Susan suffered severe abdominal pain.

"I would wake up, throbbing pain, would take a painkiller, would sleep with a heating pad," said Susan Karnstedt.

For months, she thought it was her diet that was making her sick. But a CT scan showed something else. A device she had implanted 18 years ago to treat a clotting condition was impaling one of her organs.

"There were three of the prongs clearly perforating into my small intestine. I was like, 'Oh my God,' you know."

The device was a filter that doctors inserted to catch a blood clot before it traveled to Susan's lungs. Back then, they thought it was helpful. Now, it's proven to be dangerous.

"We're starting to realize that the longer a device is left implanted, the more chance there is of a complication occurring," said William T. Kuo, M.D., Director, Stanford University Medical Center.

Susan's filter had formed scar tissue around her vein. Doctors told her leaving it in would cause more damage -- but removing the permanent device was too risky.

"The thought was trying to remove it would kill me. I would bleed out on the table."

Then, she found Doctor William Kuo who pioneered a new procedure that uses laser technology.

"Before we conducted our research in this area, there was no option for treating patients," said Dr. Kuo.

Doctor Kuo made a four-millimeter incision in Susan's neck and carefully guided a catheter down to her vena cava. He used a special laser to separate the scar tissue and then removed the filter without any damage to her vessels. What was supposed to be a life-threatening surgery turned into a surgery that saved Susan's life.

"The pain was gone. I felt great."

With no filter, she's active again and enjoying the outdoors -- almost as much as her dog -- chili.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,

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