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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012 Apr 4;94(7):e44. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00864.

Detection of total hip prostheses at airport security checkpoints: how has heightened security affected patients?

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Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction, Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, 2401 West Belvedere Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215, USA.



The sensitivity of airport security screening measures has increased substantially during the past decade, but few reports have examined how this affects patients who have undergone hip arthroplasty. The purpose of this study was to determine the experiences of patients who had hip prostheses and who passed through airport security screenings.


A consecutive series of 250 patients who presented to the office of a high-volume surgeon were asked whether they had had a hip prosthesis for at least one year and, if so, whether they had flown on a commercial airline within the past year. Patients who responded affirmatively to both questions were asked to complete a written survey that included questions about which joint(s) had been replaced, the number of encounters with airport security, the frequency and location of metal detector activation, any additional screening procedures that were utilized, whether security officials requested documentation regarding the prosthesis, the degree of inconvenience, and other relevant information.


Of the 143 patients with hip replacements who traveled by air, 120 (84%) reported triggering the alarm and required wanding with a handheld detector. Twenty-five of these patients reported subsequently having to undergo further inspection, including additional wanding, being patted down, and in two cases having to undress in a private room to show the incision. Ninety-nine (69%) of the 143 patients reported that the prosthetic joint caused an inconvenience while traveling.


This study provides interesting and critical information that allows physicians to understand the real-world implications of implanted orthopaedic devices for patients who are traveling where there has been heightened security since September 11, 2001. Patients should be counseled that they should expect delays and be prepared for such inconveniences, but that these are often only momentary. This information could relieve some anxiety and concerns that patients may have prior to traveling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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