The frequency of insertion of prophylactic inferior vena cava filters (IVCF) among traumatized patients has increased nationally. That has placed a substantial operational and economic burden upon trauma centers. The purpose of this study was to compare and contrast successful implantation, morbidity, and cost-effectiveness of prophylactic IVCF insertion in a surgical-trauma intensive care unit (STICU) versus an operating room (OR). A retrospective chart review was conducted of all trauma patients who received a prophylactic IVCF at an urban Level I trauma center between January 1999 and December 2003. Data were collected to identify patient demographics, indications, anatomical site of insertion, hospital location of insertion, hospital days before insertion, and complications associated with insertion. One hundred thirty-four patients underwent prophylactic IVCF during the study period: seventy-eight (58%) in the OR and fifty-six (42%) in the STICU. The average age of patients for the OR and STICU groups were 38.6 years and 39.6 years, respectively. The average number of days to IVCF insertion was 6.5 days and 7.0 days in the OR and STICU groups, respectively. Indications for IVCF among patients who had placement in the OR were orthopedic injury (60%), spinal cord injury (25%), and head injury (15%). Indications for IVCF among patients who had placement in the STICU were head injury (38%), orthopedic injuries (34%), and spinal cord injury (25%). Three (3.8%) patients in the OR group and two (3.6%) patients in the STICU group required a change of anatomic insertion site from the femoral to the internal jugular vein. There were two (2.6%) complications associated with IVCF insertion in the OR and two (3.5%) complications associated with IVCF insertion in the STICU (P > 0.05). Insertion of IVCF in the STICU decreased patient-cost by an average of $1636 per patient. Prophylactic IVCF insertion in an STICU is cost-effective and can be performed with similar success and complication rates to IVCF insertion in an OR.