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Security tips for passengers with artificial knees?

Security tips for passengers with artificial knees?

Old Jan 9, 14, 8:49 pm
  #1  
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Security tips for passengers with artificial knees?

I am sure that other passengers encounter this problem.

My elderly mother has had a knee replacement. Needless to say, when she goes through the metal scanner at the TSA checkpoint, it beeps. She then has to go through a lengthy, pat-down screening.

My parents travel frequently, so this is a common problem.

Is anyone familiar with a special form/ letter she could obtain from her physician to expedite this process? Any other tips?

thanks
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Old Jan 9, 14, 9:45 pm
  #2  
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mizzouflyer, welcome to FlyerTalk!

I've had hip and knee replacement surgery and TSA will not accept surgeons' letters as an alternative to the need to resolve an alarm from the walk-through metal detector. What can expedite the screening process is to use the millimeter-wave detection scanning, when available. It's always obviated any extensive pat down for me.


As this is a travel security issue, I'll move to the apt forum for more discussion. Ocn Vw 1K, Moderator, TravelBuzz.
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Old Jan 9, 14, 10:08 pm
  #3  
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Don't need one; it won't help. I, too, am always awarded the prize of a secondary inspection. They can actually see where the metal is even before the secondary, but it doesn't help. They always pull me aside. It's unavoidable so I learned to grin and bear it. Well, mostly to bear it. There's no point in making it more uncomfortable than need be, for them or for me.

I never accept the agent's offer of "more privacy." Heck, I didn't do anything that I need to hide. You want to pat me down, you can do right out front. I also want to make it as fast as possible.
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Old Jan 9, 14, 11:28 pm
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From a UK perspective, I agree with the above and when I asked my surgeon for something along these lines he said it was something they were asked for regularly. He mentioned that anyone could make up an official looking letter and present it to security so the rule was that security had to satisfy themselves whether you could pass or not.

He also mentioned that the plates and screws in my leg (I had a badly broken leg) should set off every airport alarm. In practice, I probably set off < 20%. YMMV.
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Old Jan 10, 14, 12:46 am
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I've had a knee replacement too.

They take no notice of doctors' letters or any other documentation to say you have had a replacement. You just have to plan to take longer time at security.

I almost always "ring the bell "and have to be patted down, even though they can see my scar.

It's a nuisance, but the only thing you can do is plan to arrive in plenty of time, in order to allow extra time for security measures.

I'd rather do that and have a pain-free knee than go back to the days when I had my own knee joint, but was in constant pain.
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Old Jan 10, 14, 12:56 am
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As a frequent traveler with a hip replacement, I echo what others have said about the futility of a letter.

In terms of "any other tips", however, I can offer the following:
- My hip alarms the WTMD about 30% of the time. Walking very slowly through the detector MAY reduce the likelihood of an alarm (or they may just be calibrated differently.)

- When traveling with someone, as we approach the checkpoint, I invite my companion to go first through the WTMD and ask them to watch my purse, laptop, etc if I get snagged for the patdown.

- When getting the patdown, I insist on being able to see my belongings at all time. When they say "turn around this way so I can do your back", stay where you are and get them to move. Tell them "I want to keep an eye on my things." NB: I do this even if my traveling companion is also watching my stuff - it's my small part in training the checkpoint staff. In ZRH they say "my colleague will watch your things" to which I reply, "How does she know which bags are mine?" and then they have me point them out so they can move them to one side. Some screeners will say "we have security cameras" but seriously, if your handbag is stolen, do you want to go to an office, hope they have the theft on camera, and wait for them to try to track someone down?

- I am absolutely scrupulous about wearing NOTHING else that will alarm the WTMD. I put my watch and jewelry in my purse (even though I know it won't alarm) and I have elastic waist jeans that I wear only when flying. No metal buttons on my clothes. If my hip alarms, I say "it's just my hip." Don't give them anything ELSE to point to and say "maybe it's THAT" or you could be there all day.

- I fly from lots of non-US airports where shoe removal is not automatically required, but when my hip alarms, the first thing they do is send me back to take my shoes off. Ironically, people with replacement hips and knees are often the very people who find it challenging to remove their shoes while standing up. Depending on my physical and mental state, I either argue with them for a bit before taking them off (but then I really make a fuss about being able to see my things while I'm backtracking through the WTMD), or I insist that they swab them instead.

- This one is controversial and someone will be along shortly to argue the opposite : If your mother is over 75, she should be eligible for PreCheck at certain airports in the US. This is an expedited screening where you don't have to remove shoes, liquids or laptops. (There are debates in other parts of this forum about the pros and cons of PreCheck - I'm not going into all that here.) Even though she doesn't have to, and even though other people in the line will complain, I would advise her to remove her shoes anyway, just to save that step later. (I don't fly in the US so I don't know whether PreCheck people who alarm the WTMD have to remove shoes.)

It really is a nuisance, but I hope these little things may help.
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Old Jan 12, 14, 11:29 pm
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Originally Posted by RadioGirl View Post

- I am absolutely scrupulous about wearing NOTHING else that will alarm the WTMD. I put my watch and jewelry in my purse (even though I know it won't alarm) and I have elastic waist jeans that I wear only when flying. No metal buttons on my clothes. If my hip alarms, I say "it's just my hip." Don't give them anything ELSE to point to and say "maybe it's THAT" or you could be there all day.
That's a good tip. I do this too. I even went so far as to find wire-free sports bras to wear when traveling. The only thing they see on their monitor is the metal in my knee area, so it is very clear to them that it is the artificial knee joint.

The past few times, since I started wearing sneakers, they haven't even made me take off my shoes.

But again, the bottom line is that once you have this type of surgery, you will always have to leave a generous amount of time because you will pretty much always be flagged, and it will always delay you somewhat, depending how quickly an agent can be summoned for the secondary screening. Like RadioGirl, I'd rather deal with the nuisance of the checkpoint than the knee pain.
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Old Jan 12, 14, 11:56 pm
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Originally Posted by x2y View Post
That's a good tip. I do this too. I even went so far as to find wire-free sports bras to wear when traveling. The only thing they see on their monitor is the metal in my knee area, so it is very clear to them that it is the artificial knee joint.
Out of curiosity, which "monitor" do you mean? The metal detector only identifies that there IS metal, not where (or at best, it may distinguish between lower body and upper body) and the MMW scanner shouldn't (AFAIK) be alerting on an implanted knee joint.
Originally Posted by x2y View Post
But again, the bottom line is that once you have this type of surgery, you will always have to leave a generous amount of time because you will pretty much always be flagged, and it will always delay you somewhat, depending how quickly an agent can be summoned for the secondary screening. Like RadioGirl, I'd rather deal with the nuisance of the checkpoint than the knee pain.
Ah, you're thinking of celle in that last sentence.

I live in a different cuntry, where summoning an agent for the patdown takes less than 90 seconds and the patdown itself takes less than a minute. I can (and do) arrive at the airport 45 minutes before departure and still have a coffee in the Qantas lounge. (My personal best is 30 minutes prior to departure = 10 minutes prior to boarding but I had to skip the coffee.) And my international travel takes me to Asia and Europe where airport security is also sane. Certainly under those conditions, the nuisance of the checkpoint is insignificant compared to the previous pain. If I lived in the US, I would probably give up traveling rather than face TSA.

In fact, my first thought when my GP said I might need a hip replacement was not "I'm 20 yrs too young for that". It was not worry about the hospital bills or the disruption to my work. It wasn't even concern about the risk and pain of the operation. My very first thought was "Well, that's going to complicate airport security for the rest of my life! "
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Old Jan 17, 14, 12:21 pm
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I have a knee replacement. Whenever possible, I try to use the body scanner. I get Pre-Check quite often, and they always try to route you to a WTMD. I always inform them of my knee replacement, and I ask to have the body scan, instead, and they typically will comply.

If no body scanner is available, then there is no choice except the WTMD. Usually, my knee will alarm it, but I recall one time when it did not!
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Old Jan 17, 14, 4:03 pm
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My wife is "bionic" on the left (knee and hip). She asks for the scanners as she knows she will trip the metal detectors. As other have noted, TSA pays no attention to doctor's notes, cards or whatever. At least when she goes through the Pre-Check line they will take her over to a scanner and cut in the line. SEA, anyway.
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Old Jan 19, 14, 5:11 pm
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As a joint replacement surgeon myself, I get many requests for such letters from my patients. From what I hear from them, it really is a hit or miss and often depends on the individual agent. Implants are made of Cobalt-chromium or titanium.

Best way for now appears to be go into the body scanner or just preemptively mention you have a joint implant and ask for the hand held metal detector. There is even a downloadable TSA "notification card" but it doesn't hold any more weight than a letter. I believe this issue will continue to grow in the next few years looking at some of the projected trends in joint replacements as more and more baby boomers end up getting them.
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Old Jan 19, 14, 10:50 pm
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Originally Posted by TxSurgeon View Post
As a joint replacement surgeon myself, I get many requests for such letters from my patients. From what I hear from them, it really is a hit or miss and often depends on the individual agent. Implants are made of Cobalt-chromium or titanium.

Best way for now appears to be go into the body scanner or just preemptively mention you have a joint implant and ask for the hand held metal detector. There is even a downloadable TSA "notification card" but it doesn't hold any more weight than a letter. I believe this issue will continue to grow in the next few years looking at some of the projected trends in joint replacements as more and more baby boomers end up getting them.
The hand held metal detectors have been discontinued. The only options now for those of us with bionic parts is to submit to whole body imaging or get groped after alarming the WTMD.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 1:03 pm
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The answer to your burning question...

Folks, there's a very good reason why all those nice letters (and even the little credit-card size xray images) from your doctors do not get you out of a pat-down at airports that only have walk-through-metal-detectors. It's not that the TSA doesn't believe you have a knee/hip/whatever replacement. The problem is...what's to prevent you (or anyone else with a metal implant) from secreting a firearm or knife somewhere else on your person? You step through the metal detector, the alarm goes off, you hand the TSO your letter stating you have an artificial joint replacement. The TSO allows you to proceed to your gate. What's just happened here? A potentially deadly weapon has been introduced into the secure area and from there, onto an aircraft. I'll leave the rest to your imagination...

THAT'S why you still have to have the pat-down. Believe me, we don't enjoy doing pat-downs anymore than you enjoy getting them. But we do them to keep YOU and your fellow passengers safe.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 1:23 pm
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Originally Posted by TSOVET View Post
Folks, there's a very good reason why all those nice letters (and even the little credit-card size xray images) from your doctors do not get you out of a pat-down at airports that only have walk-through-metal-detectors. It's not that the TSA doesn't believe you have a knee/hip/whatever replacement. The problem is...what's to prevent you (or anyone else with a metal implant) from secreting a firearm or knife somewhere else on your person? You step through the metal detector, the alarm goes off, you hand the TSO your letter stating you have an artificial joint replacement. The TSO allows you to proceed to your gate. What's just happened here? A potentially deadly weapon has been introduced into the secure area and from there, onto an aircraft. I'll leave the rest to your imagination...

THAT'S why you still have to have the pat-down. Believe me, we don't enjoy doing pat-downs anymore than you enjoy getting them. But we do them to keep YOU and your fellow passengers safe.
Welcome to FT, TSOVET.

I think TSA rather misled the public by providing a downloadable 'notification card' that serves no positive purpose at the checkpoint - indeed, it may even arouse suspicion, since there's no way to verify (at the checkpoint) that it is not a fake. Anyone approaching the checkpoint with such a card just has false expectations, exacerbated by TSOs who have never heard of such a card and are therefore immediately suspicious.

The wands were an effective means of detecting concealed metallic items and were far less invasive than someone's hands groping between a pax's legs and down a pax's pants.

The possible non-metallic items concealed on someone's person? They won't set off the WTMD, nor will they alarm the NoS. If they are small/flat, they can be concealed on the soles of a pax's feet and will only be detected if the pax otherwise alarms and the groper actually inspects the soles of the feet.
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Old Jan 27, 14, 1:48 pm
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Originally Posted by chollie View Post
Welcome to FT, TSOVET.

I think TSA rather misled the public by providing a downloadable 'notification card' that serves no positive purpose at the checkpoint - indeed, it may even arouse suspicion, since there's no way to verify (at the checkpoint) that it is not a fake. Anyone approaching the checkpoint with such a card just has false expectations, exacerbated by TSOs who have never heard of such a card and are therefore immediately suspicious.

The wands were an effective means of detecting concealed metallic items and were far less invasive than someone's hands groping between a pax's legs and down a pax's pants.

The possible non-metallic items concealed on someone's person? They won't set off the WTMD, nor will they alarm the NoS. If they are small/flat, they can be concealed on the soles of a pax's feet and will only be detected if the pax otherwise alarms and the groper actually inspects the soles of the feet.
The purpose of the notification card is to allow the passenger to discreetly notify the TSO of his or her medical condition...rather than blurting it out in public, and possibly causing embarrassment to himself/herself. That's not a positive purpose?

Yes, the hand-held metal detectors were effective...at detecting metal. There are a lot of non-metallic threats...hence the need for a physical pat-down.

Your negative use of the words "groper" and "groping" is inappropriate and doesn't do the flying public any favors...all you're doing is causing stress to those passengers who might have to be patted down.
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