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 screenings. For many years, healthcare providers supplied medical ID cards to notify security personnel if a person has a medical implant.

While these cards can be helpful, they're not necessary. While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept a medical ID card or other documentation if you wish to discretely describe your condition, you will still have to undergo screening.

Full Body Scanner

The TSA uses advanced imaging technology for full-body scans at airport checkpoints. Commonly referred to as full body scanners and walk-through metal detectors, these devices detect a variety of materials—both metallic and nonmetallic.

A full-body scanner won't damage implantable devices such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). However, your device may set off the alarm.

Always tell security personnel if you have a pacemaker, ICD, or another internal medical device. You should not be screened by a walk-through metal detector if you have an internal medical device such as a pacemaker.

Hand-Held Metal Detectors

If your implanted device sets off the metal detector alarm, you'll likely be asked to proceed with a secondary screening.

If you have an implanted heart device and security personnel need to use a hand-held wand, remind them not to hold it over your heart device. The magnet inside the wand may momentarily interfere with your device.

If you would rather not be screened using the hand-held wand, you can request a pat-down screening instead.

A Word From Verywell

People with pacemakers and ICDs have little or nothing to worry about with current airport screening procedures. If you are directed to go through a metal detector, let the security personnel agent know that you have an implanted medical device that might set off the alarm. If you are directed to the full body scanner, there are no special precautions you need to take. 

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Transportation Security Administration. TSA shares tips for travelers with disabilities, medical devices, medical conditions.

  2. Federal Registrar. Passenger screening using advanced imaging technology.

  3. Jilek C, Tzeis S, Vrazic H, et al. Safety of screening procedures with hand-held metal detectors among patients with implanted cardiac rhythm devices: a cross-sectional analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(9):587-592. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-155-9-201111010-00005

  4. Transportation Security Administration. What are the procedures if I have an internal or external medical device, such as a pacemaker or metal implant?

Additional Reading
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Personal implants and medical devices. In: Airport passenger screening using millimeter wave machines: compliance with guidelines. The National Academies Press; 2017:56-62. doi:10.17226/24936

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.