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Don't laugh -- airport security?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Question -- do we "beep" going through airport security following fusion?

Specifically I had a lvl 2 acdf with cadaver bone and hardware. Will my titanium make me sound the alarms at security?


  • I will not from my upcoming surgery, but when we originally discussed TLIF I asked him, and he said they would give me a card to carry.

    So in some cases it sounds like you can... I'm sure some of the cervical spineys will chime in :)))
    How goes your recovery?
  • My OS said that I shouldn't set off airport security because it is titanium, but they do have a card available if I want, that states that I have medical hardware in my body.
  • from a colleague who had hip replacement. I also know none of my jewelry ever gets a beep in my home airport, but I've been in other airports where a darn paperclick seems to cause it to go off.
  • the card doesn't matter?
    Do you mean they pull you aside anyway (which I assumed they would)
    or that they scoff at the cards & there is no point in showing it?

    I assumed that if I showed the card, I would be pulled aside & scanned w/ the wand but probably wouldn't be delayed with a more thourough(sp) search.

    I fly 2-3 times a year w/ my job so I am interested in knowing anyone's experience with this.
  • My co-worker used to carry a surgeon's letter about his hip replacement but still has to step aside and get wanded at every airport, so he no longer carries it.

    My neck problems flared up following a bad ankle sprain, walking boot, brace then surgery. I've been hand wanded for 6 months now. It's kind of a joke. I tell my co-workers not to associate with me in line. lol. I travel an average of 15 to 20 times per year.
  • I was going threw a court house and the alarm went off. I showed him my scare and told of the recent surgery and that was it, but it will definitely go off. My Doctor said he'd give me a card also.
  • If you set off the machine you will get waved over with a wand regardless of a card or letter. It's no big deal - just a matter of getting used to it.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • Yes they will still pull you out and wond the area marked on your card.
    when I fly always allow a extra 30 min beyond the recommended time, they tell me to be at the airport so far I have been wonded in 3 different airports.....and all of my hardware is titanium.My fathers knee replacement goes off every time he flys.
    Hey if the card keeps them from cavity searching me it is well worth it........lol

  • I was extremely concerned about this issue, not so much in the states and traveling, but with going to Mexico. One month prior, we had flown to Indiana for a funeral. But customs in Mexico and Texas coming home was a real hassle. Then I was really concerned that my pain meds would be taken away from me in Mexico.

    What I did with my 3 level fusion before traveling to both places was. I first made sure that I was going to be supplied with a wheelchair. No matter where you are in your recovery, these airports are just "too much walking, sitting, and standing", so I requested a wheelchair. That was awesome, cause your treated like royalty. Go through lines faster, and on-board first and off first. It was great!

    Then what I did just to make sure there would be no problems, is I took a photo of my MRI (post-op) through a window in my house, with the 6" rods and screws and stabilization bar, (bionic woman) then I took that photo and made it as small as a credit card. Then on the other side I typed out my name, surgeons name, health insurance carrier, health ID, proceedure I had done, and my NS phone number, and emergency contact and name phone number. I made that as big as a credit card. Then I laminated them both together, so it looks like a business card. And believe you me, I had to use it a few times.

    Then what I also had done before I went out of the country is I had my Surgeon type out a letter on my proceedure, and listed all my perscriptions that I take, INCLUDING my Tens Unit. They thought it was a bomb hooked onto me in Mexico, it was quite funny really. I carried all of my perscriptions with me in my carry-on, and just a FYI, they have to be in their original bottle.

    They would hand scan me due to my Tens Unit setting off the alarm. I really don't know if it was my Tens or my titanium that was setting it off. In any case, they were all very polite and understanding in the states as well as in Mexico, sorta... I did have to show proof of things in Mexico, then coming back into the states in customs in Texas.

    But ya, swallow your pride, ask for a wheelchair, and make your own little card to carry it with you everywhere you may need it. You get wisked through those security lines, plus your own aide to push you everywhere. We got lucky at Denver International and actually got escorted around in a golf cart. (Oh, by the way, I'm 11 months post-op) Then if all else fails, pull your shirt up and show them your lovely scar. Mine is 26" long.
  • My surgeon said my titanium facet bolts should not set off airport security devices because of the titanium, but still gave me a card anyway.

    Apparently titanium does set off some devices, but even if it didn't, it will only be a matter of time before airports have devices that will pick it up anyway. As several folks have said, the best thing to do is getting used to telling the security personnel what you have and let them scan you.

    Here's another twist, though. What if you have to go through a security metal check in a foreign country where you don't speak the lanuguage (or not well)? I am not even referring to airports necessarily.

    Not that many (or any) of you are going to do this, or be able to do this, but when I went to Chernobyl in 2006 I got a tour of the nuclear plant and had to go through a metal detector. I can tell you that I have never been through a device that sensitive. I had to get rid of everything including my belt and glasses to pass through.

    If I was to return, my Russian is much better now, but definitely not good enough to explain my surgery.

    I like Lynn's suggestion - create a small card with a photo of your MRI or x-ray on one side, and an explanation/contact information on the other. In my example, it would be a explanation written in Russian to give to security personnel. I'm sure showing them the scar would also help.

    I guess if there is the possibility of this happening in many foreign countries, you should create several cards, one in each language. :S
  • I will probably be flying to Argentina in May..I hope I don't have too much trouble.

    If it was a personal trip, it wouldn't bother me as much but it is with my company and could be embarrising. I always hate explaining my health issues to anyone (I find people treat you differently) so the thought of having to explain everything to security while everyone is waiting for me is disturbing..
  • The courthouse here you have to take off your belts, glasses, etc always, no matter what. They go in the buckets that go under the scanning machine with your keys and pocketbooks or bags.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    I have a titanium plate and screws after my ACDF surgeries.
    That was almost 10 and 15 years ago and I have flown all over the states and never set off any alarm. I flew to Mexico, no problem, 6 years ago to Italy no problem...
    This past year flying to Italy, I set off sensors in Paris (twice) and Naples (twice). Those flights originated from JFK, no problem.
    I was told by a friend who is in Naval Security in Naples, that during the past 18 months many European airports have increased their sensors so many things that didnt set them off in the past will now.

    It did not present a problem at the airport, just another measure of security. Which I did not MIND at ALL!
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • My daughters 2 ten inch titanium rods set off airport security, she was 9 years old at the time. Poor thing was sent behind a curtain without me and frisked till they could determine the origins, I guess they didnt believe a 9 year old would have such hardware. She was so upset, at least they called for a female examiner. This was only a problem at LAX and PHL (larger airports), every other airport was fine. She wore shorts on the way home, so she could show her scars if needed.

    I guess all I can say is to be prepared to be searched if it happens, and not to get defensive.

  • I'm really glad someone asked this question. It sure is something I wondered about.
  • That's why I made my little "business card", it answers all questions through security, no matter what language they speak. They see that and "freak!!"

    And I found it wonderful going through security. I got to bypass the 2 hour long line, due to asking for a wheelchair. We didn't have to wait through that line. Heck take advantage of it. Most airlines jump through hoops for "handicapped" people. I'd much rather ask for assistance and a wheel chair, than waiting through that long line, and walking forever to your terminal. And I think it all depends how high they have the "sensativity" level on the scanning machine set,as to if you set it off or not.

    Just ask your airline, even ahead of time you can do it when your making your reservations on line, to just check the box that says "handicapped". But do make a little card, it really simplifies things. They just "hand scanned" me, AHEAD of the crowds.
  • My titanium never set off the detectors, but the bobby pins in my hair from my updo sure did! No biggie, they just used the wand. If necessary, I would have shown them my scars, they would have run away screaming I'm sure.

    Wheelchair is excellent advice. Airports are SO huge and line waiting is hard with a bad spine.

    I was told if I had gotten the permanent spinal cord stim I would definitely need a doctor's note/card. Thankfully, I cancelled that procedure so don't have to worry about that one.

    I'm sure some hardware might set off some sensitive sensors, but the wheelchair should get you to the front of the line anyway so you won't have much delay. People flying with medical devices is so common anymore that airport security has probably seen it all. I'm sure that "C" has flown internationally with her scs so she might be able to chime in and tell her experiences.
  • Yup I have flown Internationally with my SCS implanted and yup I have set off sensors at some airports and not others. I have flown out of DC without setting the sensors off there, yet set them off at the White House Museum. I also went on a tour of the White House Gardens and did not set those sensors off. The Security at the White House said just pass through the detector and if I set it off they'd hand wand me, if not they'd prefer to keep the line moving.

    Security is set up to move lines faster by wanding "after the fact", then before hand.

    Every time someone has to be pulled aside and hand wanded, it slows things down for everyone. Not all sensors are calibrated the same, so not all will be set off. I've set off the sensors at a po-dunk airport in Japan (a small southern island), yet walked right through International ones.

    I have a card that was sent to me by Medtronic that has information in 6 different languages explaining that I have a medical implant. When I travel, I make sure that I have it with my passport (that way it's readily available) so as not to slow things down for others.

    I pride myself in being seen as someone "normal". So unless I am incapable of managing my carry on or incapable of walking, I do not use the wheel chair assistance. There are enough delays in air travel as it is. The last thing I want to do is add to the mess.

    Oh and for all of those with SCS's, your kit with your recharger is not considered carry on by the airlines. So you can take that with you as well as a standard carry on.

  • I use the wheelchairs each and every time i fly. Long term standing hurts me as well plus i can not carry anything over ten pounds, ever again.

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • I have flown probably 6-7 times since my surgery...hardware has never set off security. I know my hardware is titanium, but maybe if someone has more hardware it may go off? My doc said I didn't need to worry, and they didn't offer me a card or anything. I always figure I can show them the 15 inch scar on my back, lol.
  • I have flown several times since my 1st surgery in June and have never set off the detectors. I have titanium plates and screws around L4-5. My doctor stated I should never have a problem. He also said there was no need to carry any special cards. You should be fine but ask the professional....your doctor just to be sure.

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