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The Rules for a Knee Replacement on an Airline

By Christopher Michael ; Updated December 05, 2018

If you've had knee replacement surgery, you're walking around with some metal parts in your leg. These most likely will set off an alarm if you walk through an airport metal detector. You will be perceived as a threat until you satisfy Transportation Security Administration officers that you have a legitimate medical condition. The good news is, TSA will eventually allow you to board your flight. There are things you can do to expedite the screening process, and you should know your rights before being questioned by federal officers.

Security Screening

A prosthetic knee would trigger an alarm if you walked through the airport metal detector, and TSA would have to resolve this security alert before allowing you on the plane, possibly delaying the flight. So always alert TSA officers of your medical condition before beginning the security screening process so they can screen you by another method. If you do trigger the metal detector, you will have to undergo a pat-down. Prepare for possible additional screening at the security checkpoint by arriving at the airport at least two hours before your flight departs.

Screening Options

You can avoid a physical pat-down by choosing to be screened by imaging technology, which scans your whole body and will identify the metal in your leg as a prosthetic knee. Imaging technology is more revealing than metal-detector X-rays. TSA recommends that you opt for a pat-down if you do not feel comfortable with imaging technology, or imaging technology is not available at the airport.

Notification Cards

You can discreetly inform TSA officers of your knee replacement by presenting a medical notification card or medical documentation before screening begins. You can download and print out the notification card from TSA's website. Fill in the blank space with the phrase "Knee Replacement," keep the card with you and present it to a TSA officer before security screening.

Your Rights

A TSA pat-down will always be performed by an officer of the same gender, and you will never be asked to move or remove clothing from a sensitive area. You may request a private screening in a separate room and have a companion witness the pat-down. Tell the officer if you have difficulty standing or raising your limbs. You may request to be screened in a chair if medically necessary.

TSA Cares Help Line

TSA provides a toll-free helpline 8 a.m. through 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST on weekends and holidays at 1-855-787-2227. Call 72 hours ahead of your flight to ask about the screening procedures at your particular airport. The helpline representative may be able to coordinate advanced screening accommodations for your particular case.

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