Flying and Medical Implants - Etiquette for Going Through Security

You have an artificial joint. What happens when you go through airport security? Find out what to expect.

The security line at the airport is moving unusually fast today. Normally, you’d be excited by such luck. But, last year you had your knee replaced. Now, the approaching metal detector has your pulse racing. You look at the line behind you, hoping not to cause a scene or delays for those still waiting. Your clammy hands squeeze your Medical Device ID card and ticket. Your turn arrives, so you step forward.

If you’ve had a medical device implanted, the thought of going through TSA is sure to cause some anxiety.  Here’s an idea of what to expect when going through the TSA security check.

  1. When you arrive at the checkpoint, notify the agent working that you have a medical implant. If you were given a Medical Implant ID card, have it ready to show the agent. No card? No worries. Though they are nice to have, they won’t get you out of the required inspections.
  2. If you have certain medical devices, such as a pacemaker, you should not go through a walk-through metal detector. You will likely receive a pat-down or other search instead.1
  3. You will go through a metal detector, undergo a pat-down, or both. It is also possible that your hands could be sampled for various residues. These procedures are nothing to be afraid of; they are simply precautions taken to ensure the safety of travelers.2
  4. If you’re overly concerned about your implant or condition, you can visit the TSA Cares Helpline or call 855-787-2227.2 Your physician is also a great resource for information.

While this is not an exhaustive list of what you may encounter when traveling, it gives you a good idea of what to expect. If you have concerns about traveling, discuss them with your doctor. He or she may be able to provide additional guidance.

The TSA’s website, www.tsa.gov, is also a great resource if you have questions regarding upcoming travel and security. There you can find checklists, videos, and other tools that may be helpful.

References
  1. TSA Staff (2019). "What are the procedures if I have an internal or external medical device, such as a pacemaker or metal implant?" Transportation Security Administrationwww.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-procedures-if-i-have-internal-or-external-medical-device
  2. TSA Staff (2019). "TSA Travel Tips: Travelers with Diabetes or other Medical Conditions." Transportation Security Administration.  www.tsa.gov/blog/2014/04/01/tsa-travel-tips-travelers-diabetes-or-other-medical-conditions
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