Will my Spine Hardware set off Metal Detectors?

Category: Minimally Invasive Surgery, Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: August 26, 2014

metal detectorsSome spine surgeries require hardware (typically screws and plates) be inserted into the body. One of the most common questions we get from patients who undergo these surgeries is: will the hardware in my spine set off metal detectors at the airport? That is our topic for conversation today.

Procedures Requiring Hardware

There are several spinal surgeries that involve implanting hardware into the patient’s spine. Some of the more common procedures include:

  • Spinal Fusion, in which hardware is used to fuse adjacent vertebra together to prevent movement.
  • Total Disc Replacement, in which an impacted spinal disc is replaced with an artificial disc.

These hardware implanted in these procedures is permanent – they are meant to stay in the patient’s body unless they begin to cause problems. In other surgeries, hardware is placed and then removed later by the surgeon.

Hardware & Metal Detectors

Whether or not your hardware will set off a metal detector depends on the hardware used in the procedure. There are varying types of spinal hardware that can be used during these procedures. Most artificial discs are made of plastic or metal materials, and many rods and screws are composed of titanium. These are unlikely to set off a metal detector at the airport due to their composition and the fact that they are so small. However, patients who underwent spine surgery involving hardware years ago may be more likely to set off a metal detector. Before modern hardware was perfected, this hardware was typically made from steel, which was heavier, larger, and more likely to set off a metal detector at the airport.

If you are undergoing a procedure that involves hardware, ask your spine surgeon what type of hardware is going to be used and whether it is likely to set off any metal detectors.

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