Metal Detectors and Orthopedic Implants

Airport metal detectors are quite sensitive to metals, this includes metal implants that may have been placed inside your body. Belt buckles, key chains, and steel-toed shoes may set off these sensitive metal detectors. Many commonly used orthopedic implants may also set off the metal detectors.

A woman being checked by the TSA
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Orthopedic Implants

The most commonly implanted orthopedic materials include stainless steel, cobalt chrome, and titanium. Different types of metal detectors work in different ways, but the newer airport screening detectors will identify patients with these metal implants.

Obviously, there is nothing you can do to change this. If you have a hip replacement, knee replacement, a metal plate and screws, a metal rod inside your bone, or one of many other types of orthopedic implants, you may set off the airport metal detector. We used to give patients a card to carry to inform the security staff of your implanted device, however, there is no need to continue to use these cards. The reality is, that having a card doesn't change the way you are screened.

Simply telling the TSA officer is sufficient to have them follow their protocol for individuals with medical implants in their body.

Airport Security Procedures for Metal Implants

Whether or not you have a card to alert the security personnel, they may have you step aside for further screening. To help you on your way, wear clothes that allow you to easily reveal your surgical scar (such as sweat pants, short sleeve shirts, etc.). Alert the security staff that you have a metal implant, and let them know where it is in your body. You will likely be screened with a metal detecting wand, but security sees many patients with these types of implants, and you shouldn't be delayed.

International Travel

There are some different screening protocols outside of the United States that may be different than the protocols listed here. While every country handles security screening a little differently, the same principles hold true: alert the security staff that you have a medical implant, and be prepared for another level of screening. Again, the simplest method to manage this is to wear clothing that easily allows you to demonstrate the site of surgery.

2 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. Ismail A, Dancey A, Titley OG. Prosthetic metal implants and airport metal detectors. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2013;95(3):211–214. doi: 10.1308/003588413X13511609955977

  2. University of Rochester Medical Center, Health Encyclopedia: "Fly Through Airport Security with Your New Joint"

Additional Reading

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.