Medical ID Cards to Identify Metal Implants for the TSA

Special identification is not needed for patients with artificial joints

Security agent using a metal detector on a man

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Metal implants in the body, including joint replacements, plates, screws, and rods, can set off metal detectors during airport security screening. For many years, patients were given wallet-sized ID cards from their doctor to inform the security personnel of their implanted metal.

These ID cards are generally not needed, and seldom issued by physicians any longer. In the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept a card or other medical documentation, but it will not change the way you are screened. 

Security personnel will handle the fact that your implant set off the metal detector the same, regardless of whether or not you have an identification card.

Patients with pacemakers are asked (but not required) to carry an ID card, but patients with orthopedic implants, including joint replacements, do not need special identification. Again, the TSA does not discourage you from carrying an identification of your implant, but it does not require that you do so, and ultimately it doesn't change the way you are screened.

Setting Off a Metal Detector

If your implanted metal sets off an airport metal detector, you will be asked to proceed with a secondary screening. This may consist of using a wand or a pat-down to ensure that the metal is inside your body. Some modern screening devices can detect these implants and prevent further screening.

It can be helpful to wear loose-fitting clothing so that you can reveal your surgical scar, however, the TSA clearly states that is not necessary. It is not required that clothing be removed or lifted to demonstrate your surgical scar.

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