Prosthetic metal implants and airport metal detectors

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Metal detectors have been present in airports and points of departure for some time. With the introduction of heightened security measures in response to fears of an increased threat of terrorism, they may become more prevalent in other public locations. The aim of this study was to ascertain which prosthetic devices activated metal detector devices used for security purposes.


A range of prosthetic devices used commonly in orthopaedic and plastic surgery procedures were passed through an arch metal detector at Birmingham Airport in the UK. Additionally, each item was passed under a wand detector. Items tested included expandable breast prostheses, plates used in wrist and hand surgery, screws, K-wires, AutosutureTM ligation clips and staples.


No prostheses were detected by the arch detector. The expandable implants and wrist plates were the only devices detected by passing the wand directly over them. No device was detected by the wand when it was under cover of the axillary soft tissue. Screws, K-wires, AutosutureTM clips and staples were not detected under any of the study conditions.


Although unlikely to trigger a detector, it is possible that an expandable breast prosthesis or larger plate may do so. It is therefore best to warn patients of this so they can anticipate detection and further examination.

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