BACKGROUND: Whether early placement of an inferior vena cava filter reduces the risk of pulmonary embolism or death in severely injured patients who have a contraindication to prophylactic anticoagulation is not known. METHODS: In this multicenter, randomized, controlled trial, we assigned 240 severely injured patients (Injury Severity Score >15 [scores range from 0 to 75, with higher scores indicating more severe injury]) who had a contraindication to anticoagulant agents to have a vena cava filter placed within the first 72 hours after admission for the injury or to have no filter placed. The primary end point was a composite of symptomatic pulmonary embolism or death from any cause at 90 days after enrollment; a secondary end point was symptomatic pulmonary embolism between day 8 and day 90 in the subgroup of patients who survived at least 7 days and did not receive prophylactic anticoagulation within 7 days after injury. All patients underwent ultrasonography of the legs at 2 weeks; patients also underwent mandatory computed tomographic pulmonary angiography when prespecified criteria were met. RESULTS: The median age of the patients was 39 years, and the median Injury Severity Score was 27. Early placement of a vena cava filter did not result in a significantly lower incidence of symptomatic pulmonary embolism or death than no placement of a filter (13.9% in the vena cava filter group and 14.4% in the control group; hazard ratio, 0.99; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.51 to 1.94; P = 0.98). Among the 46 patients in the vena cava filter group and the 34 patients in the control group who did not receive prophylactic anticoagulation within 7 days after injury, pulmonary embolism developed in none of those in the vena cava filter group and in 5 (14.7%) in the control group, including 1 patient who died (relative risk of pulmonary embolism, 0; 95% CI, 0.00 to 0.55). An entrapped thrombus was found in the filter in 6 patients. CONCLUSIONS: Early prophylactic placement of a vena cava filter after major trauma did not result in a lower incidence of symptomatic pulmonary embolism or death at 90 days than no placement of a filter.