Question: Will My Spinal Fusion Set Off Metal Detectors?
Answer: No, probably not.
The hardware from your spinal fusion shouldn’t set off the metal detectors in airports, especially if your surgery happened within the last 10 or so years. According to my neurosurgeon, this is because most modern spinal implants are made with titanium or other non-ferrous (not iron-based) metals. Titanium in particular is very weakly magnetic – so much so that it is considered to be a non-magnetic metal.
I’ve personally been through airport security (US) a number of times since my spinal fusion, and I’ve never set off a metal detector or had a TSA agent bat an eye. Same goes for metal detectors at concerts, amusement parks, and other security checkpoints.
With that said, the official TSA website states that you should inform the TSA officer “that you have an artificial knee, hip, other metal implant or a pacemaker, defibrillator or other internal medical device.” You can present the officer with a TSA Notification Card (available for download online) or medical documentation to describe your condition with privacy. I’ve never done this, but it’s a good option to have.
Interestingly enough, my personal metal detector DOES detect my spinal fusion hardware, which my family finds endlessly entertaining.
Want to share your experience with metal detectors after a spinal fusion? Leave it in the comments! If anyone has experience with air travel and/or security outside of the United States, I’d love to hear it. (2021 Update: Nope, no problems with international travel either!)
For more commonly asked questions, visit my Spinal Fusion FAQ page.