Spinal Implants and Airport Metal Detectors

In today’s post 9/11 world, it is a common concern for patients with spinal implants to worry about passing through airport security without setting off metal detectors. Spine recently published a study looking at the ability of spinal implants to set off airport metal detectors.

Using both a traditional walk-through metal detector and a handheld wand metal detector, the study tested various spinal implants located in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions.

It found that the traditional walk-through metal detectors were not able to detect any type of spinal implant. On the other hand, the handheld wand metal detectors were able to detect implants on the back of the spine and implants on the front of only the cervical spine.

Therefore, patients who set off the traditional metal detectors or who are subject to random screenings have a higher chance of further delaying their travel due to handheld metal detectors being more sensitive to spinal implants.

The study did not find any correlation with detection of spinal implants and the patients BMI but it did find an association with the type of metal used in the implant. Titanium was found to be the best implant to have when passing through traditional metal detectors, as it rarely set off the alarm.

As a patient, remember to discuss your spinal implant options with your surgeon prior to your procedure. This will help decrease the chance for unwanted delays when passing through airport security.

Chinwalla F, Grevitt M. Detection of Modern Spinal Implants by Airport Metal Detectors. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 37:2011-16.