Travelers with knee, hip or other joint replacements have another reason to hate flying: airport security.
When being discharged from the hospital last December after a total knee replacement, one important piece of advice was missing from the pile of recovery plan papers I received from the staff, that is - how to get through airport security without setting off the alarm and the resulting embarrassing pat-down, both of which have happened to me at one time or another in the months since my surgery. A member of airport security in Boston recently offered me some helpful advice which I hope will assist other "bionic" travelers at the airport.
There used to be a time when the doctor would give you a note to show at airport security making them aware of your joint hardware. This is no longer the case, as TSA won't accept it as evidence of body metal. In fact most physicians rarely bother to offer a note. Whether you have a note from your doctor or even display your surgical scar to the security agent makes no difference. When you pass through the metal detector, the alarm will sound, and you will require a full and thorough pat-down (VERY thorough, if you get my drift). To avoid humiliation, try the following tricks:
If there is the option for a full body scanner, choose it, as it will be much easier. There is no need to announce your artificial joint to security personnel. While metal will still be detected, the scanner will clearly show that the metal is in the bone.
If a full body scanner is not available, be sure to tell a security agent that you have joint hardware BEFORE going through the metal detector. They may still direct you through the machine or they may direct you to another area for further screening. Either way, any resulting wand detector, frisk or light pat down will most likely be minimal and less intrusive.
In the unlikely event you still find yourself undergoing a full pat down, ask for a privacy screening and assert your preference for a male or female screener.
Patients undergoing joint replacement have enough issues to worry about. Airport security shouldn't be one of them.