“I’m sweating like when I was a kid picking cucumbers in July,” thought Michael as he approached the airport security checkpoint. It was anxiety – not the summer heat – triggering Mike’s perspiration. He was taking his first airplane trip after receiving a hip joint replacement. “Will my hip set off the metal detector? Will they pull me out of line for an embarrassing and time-consuming special check?” worried Mike. Michael’s not alone. The rate of total joint replacements for knee and hips continues to climb. Even the U.S. economic downturn, starting in 2008, did not halt the growth of joint replacements. One researcher called them “recession proof.” If you’re like Michael – living with a knee joint or hip replacement and planning air travel — you might have a few questions.
Let’s try to answer them for you.
WILL MY JOINT REPLACEMENT SET OFF THE METAL DETECTOR?
“Probably. A survey of hip replacement patients revealed that 8 out of 10 of them triggered the metal detector,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Rodney Alan. “In England, another study showed that knee joint replacements were more likely to set off metal detectors than hip replacements.”
WHAT HAPPENS THEN?
Don’t panic if the metal alarm goes off. The TSA agent may try to use a hand wand on you. Worse case: you may be subject to a pat down covering the area of the body that set off the alarm.
One study’s author cautioned joint replacement patients to expect some delay most of the time, but it shouldn’t be a “terrible inconvenience.”
Full-body scanners, now found in many airports, accomplish a security scan without the worry of your metal replacement joint setting off an alarm. If the airport offers both metal detectors and a full-body scanner, you can request the full body scan.
WHAT CAN I DO TO SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS?
If your knees or hips hurt, a total joint replacement could bring you permanent relief. See your personal physician or an Orthopedic Specialist.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Journal of Arthroplasty, Smith & Nephew, Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, US Department of Homeland Security