TSA Travel Tips Tuesday: Traveling With Personal Medical Electronic Devices

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Insulin Pump

Insulin Pump (Photo Courtesy of Energy.gov)

Many travelers rely on personal medical electronic devices (PMEDs) (pacemakers, neurostimulators, implantable cardio defibrillators, insulin pumps, blood glucose monitors, etc.), so it’s understandable that there may be concerns prior to traveling through a TSA checkpoint. I hope to help alleviate some of those concerns with today’s TSA travel tips.

First off, if a passenger has a PMED, the passenger should know that he/she is not alone. Our officers encounter individuals with PMEDs daily at TSA checkpoints and are trained on proper screening procedures. If a passenger has a PMED, it is important to inform the officer conducting the screening before the screening process begins. A passenger can use TSA’s NotificationCard to communicate discreetly with security officers. However, showing this card or other medical documentation will not exempt a passenger from additional screening when necessary.

Walk Through Metal Detectors: Passengers who have a PMED should not be screened by a metal detector and should instead request to be screened by imagingtechnology or a pat-down.

Advanced Imaging Technology: Millimeter wave scanners are safe to use if you have a pacemaker or other PMED.

From the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) (PDF 10.5 MB) “CDRH studied the risks of both spurious emissions and electromagnetic interference (EMI) on several types of PMEDs exposed to the emissions from an AIT security system. Using a millimeter wave exposure simulator and an L-3 ProVision system, CDRH performed a risk assessment for potential EMI effects on a range of PMEDs (including pacemakers, neurostimulators, implantable cardio defibrillators, insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors). No effects were observed for any PMEDs exposed to the mmW AIT-1, and the CDRH concluded that the risks for the non-ionizing, millimeter wave and out of band emissions to disrupt the function of the selected PMEDs is very low.”

Insulin Pumps: If a passenger uses an insulin pump, the passenger can be screened without disconnecting from the pump. Passengers who have insulin pumps can be screened using millimeter wave imaging technology, metal detector, or a thorough pat-down. Regardless of whether the passenger is screened using imaging technology or metal detector, the passenger’s insulin pump is subject to additional screening. Under most circumstances, this will include the passenger conducting a self pat-down of the insulin pump followed by an explosive trace detection sampling of the hands.

TSA Cares Hotline: Passengers with questions are encouraged to contact the TSA Cares Help Line. TSA Cares is a help line to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. TSA recommends that passengers call 72 hours ahead of travel for information about what to expect during screening. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares will serve as an additional, dedicated resource specifically for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying.

Passenger Support Specialist: Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline at 1-855-787-2227.

The hours of operation for the TSA Cares help line are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. EST and weekends and Holidays 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. EST. Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

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Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

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