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, patients were given wallet-sized ID cards from their doctor to inform the security personnel of their implanted metal.

These ID cards are not necessary and are seldom issued by physicians any longer. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will accept a card or other medical documentation if you wish to discretely describe your condition, 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 or other implanted medical devices should not be screened with a walk-through metal detector.

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 physical pat-down to ensure that the metal is inside your body. Some modern screening devices can detect these implants and prevent unnecessary further screening.

2 Sources
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  1. Transportation Security Administration. TSA shares tips for travelers with disabilities, medical devices, medical conditions.

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

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.