Stephen Wang, MD

Interventional Radiology, Santa Clara

Inferior Vena Cava Filter Program

“We’re practicing preventive medicine, working to avoid complications by using only the safest IVC filters and removing them before they can cause problems for our patients.”

As an interventional radiologist, Dr. Wang places permanent or retrievable inferior vena cava (IVC) filters in patients with deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Spurred by his clinical observations, he conducted research demonstrating that while retrievable IVC filters can be lifesaving, they also can cause serious problems.

The risks are three-fold: some IVC filter designs are unsafe; IVC filters can be placed unnecessarily; and most filters are not removed after they have served their purpose.

To combat this triple threat, between 2009 and 2010, Dr. Wang developed the IVC Filter Program at Santa Clara. It comprises an evidence-based formulary, ensuring that only the safest IVC filter devices are placed in patients; educating physicians about the appropriate indications for IVC filter placement; and developing a computerized system to track patients so they can be evaluated for safe filter removal.

Dr. Wang shared his findings throughout the region by making 14 Grand Round presentations in 2012 and 2013. To evaluate the program, he compared rates pre- and post-Grand Rounds and found a 20% reduction in IVC filter placement regionwide.

His next challenge was to share the tracking system that made it possible for Santa Clara to achieve a 55% filter retrieval rate, compared to 5% among Medicare patients nationwide. This system, implemented throughout KP Northern California in 2014, will become an automated module in KP HealthConnect in 2015.

Dr. Wang serves as lead physician for the KP National IVC Filter Registry Initiative. He shares his expertise outside KP by presenting at national meetings and publishing research articles.