View Full Version : Airports and X-rays

02-21-2007, 11:38 AM
I just scheduled a consultation appointment with Dr. Boachie for April 16th. :)
I was asked to bring my most recent x-rays to the appointment.

Does anyone know if any precautions are necessary to protect the x-rays when going thru airport security? Thanks

02-21-2007, 12:23 PM
Hi Janet...

I'm not certain, but I think it's safe to take your xrays through airport security.

However, I'm wondering why you're going all the way to NY for an opinion, when even Dr. Boachie would probably tell you that there are comparable specialists close to home. Have you been to UCSF?


02-21-2007, 12:51 PM

I've seen Dr. Berven at UCSF and I think he is great; however I want to get a second opinion from another highly skilled surgeon. I also have some concerns relating to post-op rehab facilities, which UCSF seems to think my insurance will not cover (I do not have anyone who can stay with me 24/7 for the first couple of weeks at home, so rehab might be the way to go).

02-21-2007, 12:58 PM
Hi Janet
I had to take x-rays with me from Alabama to Dr. Lenke in St. Louis.
I carried my x-rays and told the security people what they were. Although they said that since they were already developed the machine would not damage them they searched my x-rays by hand instead of sending them through the machine. Hope this helps!

02-21-2007, 06:01 PM
Just wondering if there is a problem with going through secuity with metal instrumentation in the spine?


02-21-2007, 06:31 PM
Hi Joan...

It is believed that metal spine implants do not set off airport metal detectors. I've traveled dozens of time with mine. While I've set off the alarms, I haven't done so since they stopped allowing us to wear shoes. I have two separate stainless steel implant "systems," which is a considerable amount of metal. I have heard from people who say they set off the detectors, but there's no way to actually verify if the problem is their implants.


02-21-2007, 11:56 PM
Hi Joan,
I set off the metal detectors at the local airport, and I immediately started explaining my back....but they said it could have been my barrette or belt buckle too. So as Linda mentioned, who knows what it really was?! I asked my doctor if I needed a note for travelling, and he pretty much said the same thing - that it's unknown if it's the implants for sure or not. I figure if needed to, I could always show them the scar. I did set off my dad's metal detector though when I was laying on the beach...either that or I was laying on top of an old bottle cap. :)

02-22-2007, 09:05 AM
If you really want to verify whether your implants set off the detector, ask a security officer to wave a metal detecting wand over the center of your back. The wands have a very short range and will only detect metal if directly over it.

Some wands detect the portion of the rods in my upper back, which are closer to the surface of the skin than implants lower in the back. However, all metal detectors can be set to different levels of sensitivity and some are simply better than others, so it's possible that one detector will find your rods and another will not.

02-22-2007, 10:25 AM
Hi Dave...

Hope all is well with you. :)

My implants definitely set off the handheld wand, but not the walk through detector.


02-22-2007, 04:09 PM
Oh Gosh!!!! It's THE Dave Wolpert!!! The author of the book we have all studied and taken so to heart! Wonderful to "meet" you! :)

I'm planning a transatlantic flight this summer... Have any of you had problems after surgery with long flights? The last time i flew was pre-op and it was very difficult for me to drag around my luggage, even tho it was on wheels.... Also, the flight itself was pretty uncomfortable. I surely hope it will be easier this time!!

02-22-2007, 04:58 PM
Thanks to everyone who responded to my inquiry about the x-rays.

As to the metal detector picking up on the rods, if this were to happen, what does one do (after removing shoes, belts, jewelry etc.)? Do you carry a note from the surgeon or a set of your post-op x-rays or ???

02-22-2007, 05:05 PM
Hi Janet...

The times that I set off the alarm, I just told them that I had spinal implants. They wanded me, patted me down, and sent me on my way. I actually carry a picture of my xray, but have never had to show it.


02-22-2007, 05:25 PM
as far as setting of metal detectors my doctor gave me a card to carry saying i had metal implants. it has your name and date of surgery on it. check with your doctor.

02-22-2007, 06:50 PM
Great ideas to carry a doctor's card AND a photo of the x-ray. Even if we never have to go thru a metal detector, it sounds like a good idea to carry this info, just in case....

02-22-2007, 07:55 PM
Hi Janet,

I have set the detectors off a few times. They will take you aside and a female guard will wand you from feet to head. And of course, when they got to my back with the wand it just kept beeping the whole length of my back. After that and a few laughs, they send me on my way.

02-23-2007, 09:44 AM
I just saw a TV news report that something called a "backscatter x-ray" is being used at Phoenix airport. It provides "see-thru security" such that the body's outline is displayed on a screen, and metal objects such as knives, guns (and spinal rods & screws!) are displayed. Presently, being screened by this device is optional at Phoenix. There are objections re right to privacy being raised. The image I saw presented an outline and no details of anatomy - an earlier version was way too up close & personal.

02-23-2007, 03:11 PM
I've had Harrington rods for the past 40 years and never had a problem with an airport metal detector. In the past two weeks we flew round trip from Newark to Tel Aviv and I did not have any problem with security.


02-25-2007, 08:23 PM
I will look forward to some possible fun times at the airport.

Dave, if you are still reading this thread, Dr. Von Rueden was my surgeon and he let me borrow your book. He is very proud that you selected him after your second opinion and research.

I am five months post op. I need to return the book to him. It was so helpful.


02-26-2007, 04:58 PM
Just to add an airport story.

When I was wearing my TLSO, I traveled to Europe. I was pulled aside, because you could tell that there was something under my shirt. I got the wand. The security officer knocked on my brace with the wand and started asking questions. I guess he believed that I had had back surgery and let me pass. I carried a card at the time--just in case, but didn't need it.

My surgeon told me that if the card and the explanation didn't work, they may make me go into a room and show off my scars.

02-27-2007, 11:18 AM
I have traveled quite a bit in the past 12 years and it wasn't until after my surgery that I began setting off the walk-through metal detectors. When the security guards use the wand, it beeps down the entire length of my back. I got a note from my Dr. and have shown part of my scar but neither did any good. I get pulled aside for additional screening everytime. I've just made it part of my routine now and always allow time for the extra screening.

The only airport that I've been through since surgery where I did not set off the walk-through detector was in Shannon, Ireland.

04-21-2007, 12:18 PM
I purchased a rigid plastic artist's portfolio to carry my x-rays. At Oakland airport I handed the portfolio to the TSA and asked to not put it through the machine - and that was that - he just hand carried it and gave it back to me where you pick up your shoes, etc. However, at JFK, the TSA gave the portfolio to another TSA, who took it to another area and patted down the portfolio (which was flat), then removed each folder (I was carrying 8 year's worth of x-rays) and looked inside each one at each x-ray. Fortunately I had allowed plenty of time to board my flight.

ALSO, if you fly in/out JFK, there could some unannounced gate changes. Jet Blue is renovating its domestic terminal at JFK and some flights depart from another terminal, so I had to go down a ramp to the tarmac, board a mini-bus, get driven to a different terminal and walk up a ramp to the actual departure gate; this took another 10 - 15 minutes. We were not aware of this when we checked in, and only when we got to our gate at the very end of the concourse did we learn about the bus transfer.

04-24-2007, 11:41 AM
I am planning a trip to Germany this summer and I will be departing from JFK in NY... I asked my surgeon about the Harrington rods in my back, and he said that I may set off metal detectors... Even he had his knee replaced and has to go through with the process all the time. Anyways... He told me that they no longer issue cards... I insisted for documentation and he said the next best thing is an operative note which details the procedure of the surgery (which is basically the doctor's notes on what he did during the operation).

Well... I guess I will be carrying a couple of sheets of paper and my surgeon's business card! I hope all goes well at the airport and will not be delayed...

Good luck to everyone else on travel.