Insulin pump and airport/TSA procedures

Hello everyone,
I have a couple of questions:

1. I will be doing a lot of traveling in May through airports. I have heard about not going through the x-ray thing with the pump because it may cause some defect with the pump, is this true?

2. When we put our carry on luggage through the x-ray scanner, should I not put the pump through the scanner either?

3. For those of you who travel by air with a pump, how do they go about "searching" you if the pump cannot go through the x-ray body scan?

4. How do I go about letting them know all of this? I have a doctors note to state that I have a pump. They should know that these devices cannot go through these x-rays correct? or at least they should right?

I know a lot of questions but this is the first time going to an airport with a pump, usually I just had the insulin pens but now having a pump I am confused and curious. Thank you in advance for your advice/knowledge.

Thank you for your advice =) helps a lot!

It's very important as well that you do not disconnect your pump, even if they tell you that you have to. This is not a requirement. Your primary pump should never leave your person.

When going through the metal detector, remove all metal including the clip from your pump and put it through the X-ray. I'd say that 50% of the time the metal detector doesn't even go off, and I don't require a pat down. If it goes off, or they ask - just tell them what it is, and that it cannot be X-ray'd or Body Scanned. They'll do some combination of a pat down, a wand, and maybe an explosives residue test (the one where they swab your hands/pump).

I do a lot of traveling, and have never run into an issue. Only been asked for my doctor's letter once, and that was 5 years ago.

I refuse to go through the scanners on principal. You can refuse whether or not you have a pump - just say no. The TSA sees a lot of diabetics - here's a useful page if you're concerned about any of this: TSA-LINK

"If a passenger uses an insulin pump, he or she can be screened without disconnecting from the pump. However, it is important for the passenger to inform the officer conducting the screening about the pump before the screening process begins.

Passengers who have insulin pumps can be screened using imaging technology, metal detector, or a thorough patdown. A passenger can request to be screened by patdown in lieu of imaging technology."

MegaMinx you are right., I understand that more resent TSA training manuals state the it is safe for medical devices to be exposed to the imaging technology. Not so. I make a copy of the warning page for my pump that lists the imaging techno9logies that we shouldn't expose our devices to. I know someone on this board annulled her warranty because she had allowed her pump to be exposed to the scanners. Someone else here got a little resistance from the TSA and when she asked if they had the $6,000 to replace the pump - all of a sudden they were more obliging. I wouldn't risk it.

Ditto all of the above. I travel quite often for work and always opt for the pat-down. It felt a little awkward at first, but became quite routine fairly quickly. I carry a separate medical bag that includes extra insulin, glucagon pen, insulin sets, etc. In addition, a note from my doctor a copy of my prescriptions and emergency food (squeeze bag of icing). Occasionally, you will get a TSA agent that will indeed try convincing you it is safe to go through the scanner, but it is YOUR risk not theirs. The last thing I need when flying across country is for my pump to crash. On the other hand, I ran across one TSA agent that was also a pumper so we talked about it all through the pat-down. My primary advice is to make sure you allow yourself enough time and be patient.

I act pretty much the same, rich.
I walk through the metal detector with my pump, and it has never gone off. they sometimes ask me what that bump in my pants is, i tell them its an insulin pump, they can see its connected to my body and thats it.
they swabbed my pump once for explosives, no big deal.
just never put your pump through that x-ray scanner, that might damage it.
its really not a big deal, just be open and explain, they dont wanna hurt you after all.

My pump manufacturer (Medtronic) says that their pumps cannot go through the scanners or be placed on the X-ray belt. I walk through the metal detector with my pump clipped to my pocket. I don't try to hide it, so they usually notice it. It has only set off the metal detector once. They used to do a pat down complete with a hand swab for explosive residue every time they noticed it, but now they usually just do the explosive test and send me on my way. However, if the only option is a scanner, you must opt out and they will do a pat down. I always tell them I'm opting out because I have an insulin pump, but you really don't have to give them a reason. The pat downs are a lot less vigorous than they were for a while, but I always point to my pump site and tubing and they are very careful about that area of my abdomen. For me, the only annoying part of this process is the relative lack of female TSA agents. The agents are allowed to swab anyone's hands, but only same sex agents can do the pat downs. This has led to as much as a 15 minute wait for an available female agent.
Many TSA agents believe that any pump is safe in the scanner. If your pump manufacturer says no, don't do it. I have only had one bad experience, last summer in Boston's Southwest Airlines terminal. I may be the person referenced above.

"1. Neither your pump nor yourself should go through one of those Porno Scanners - demand a pat-down. Several EU Countries have banned those machines."

Just a note, the EU only banned the x-ray backscatter machines, with are rarely, if ever, used in the US anymore. I can't think of the last time I've seen one. The EU and most US airports use the millimeter wave scanners, which are not the so called "porno scanners," as you reference them.

Is there any pump manufacturer that does claim it's safe to put their pump through these scanners?

There are so many devices that have to go through these scanners, that surely it can't be that hard to properly shield sensitive bits, and for the cost of the pump ($20 to make it, $5980 to get FDA approval, sell to you for $6000) they should be able to put it in.

I don't know of any pumps that are able to be scanned. But I would think that any safeguards would be soon obsolete since the imaging technology is rapidly changing. I would rather energy be put into proper training of TSA agents. There are instances where pumpers have had to demand avoiding the machines and TSA agents insisting that it is safe for pumps to be exposed. Someone on another forum, married to an airport/airline employee shared that recent training manuals for TSA agents state that it is safe for pumps (and other medical devices) to go through the machines. I'd also like for the agents to be more gentle when near the tubing. I've had to replace a set because it was pulled out.

When TSA very strongly wants me to go through scanner I just say my pump is over 5 years old and can not go through scanners like newer pumps can. They always accept that and send me for pat down, which is what I wanted in first place.

TomS - that's a great idea. I'm gonna use that line the next time get hassled (not to mention that my body is an old one as well...

Another reply, I understand there is another discussion (probably here) about a woman who's pump malfunctioned and the pump mfr stated that since she had answered yes to the question "Have you been through the airport security scanner with your pump?" Don't know if the scanning caused the malfunction or njot - I don't want to invalidate my warranty.

I was pretty sure i wasn't supposed to submit my pump to any sort of x-ray/ scanning when I flew last December, so I opted for the manual pat-down. I think the worst part of it was my own awkward self-consciousness trying to flag down someone official's attention and not getting swept away in the midst of the teaming crowd that, for the most part, just wanted to get through the checkpoint and on to a plane as soon as possible. When i did get someone's attention he was very nice about it but raised his eyebrows a bit and looked rather bewildered to find someone *asking* to be patted down. I was sent off to the side to watch everyone pass by me. I wondered if maybe they thought i was a criminal or something. Withing a minute or two, a female guard appeared and it only took a few minutes. Then she swabbed my hands which i guess is the test for explosives or something. All in all it wasn't that bad and i'm guessing the next time it happens it will feel a bit more natural.

In previous threads on this topic (and there have been many!) several people have posted that they are frequent flyers and that they have always just gone through the scanners with no problem and have never heard of anyone who had a problem with their pump as a result of doing this. Since all the TSA workers have been told it's safe and all the pump companies say don't do it, one just has to wonder if perhaps this is just one of those cya things like doctors being overly concerned with lows? Like someone said above, with a $5,000 piece of technology you think they could shield it from rays of various kinds! What about the dozen other smart devices people carry through the machines? I of course have no proof of this, but it kind of makes you wonder. It also sort of bothers me that people shrug at getting their body "patted down" as a normal part of flying when it is at its core such an invasion of personal rights to privacy. Oh right, I forgot we lost all that years ago. Ok, I'm a cynic, I admit it.

The reason I choose a pat-down is really fairly simple. I agree that both the full-body scans and pat-downs are serious invasions of privacy. But if I want to get on a flight (and I sometimes fly for work) I need to submit to one of them. And if EVERYONE would insist on a pat-down, then the TSA goon system would have far too many travelers to inspect, the system would be overwhelmed, and they would have to give up on it. So it is my personal way of trying to change a corrupt system. Not very effective, I'm afraid, but if enough people did it ...

I have always kind of wondered on this as well...for many reasons. On the one hand as Americans we have this expectation of "privacy" but having lived overseas and travelled there extensively both in the '70's in Great Britain with the IRA's random attacks (which I witnessed occasionally) and in the Middle East which we have also seen on our own shores, I really fail to see how the measures to protect what has been the primary weapon used against us are considered "invasions of privacy". The issue I have is that our government half-asses security unlike other countries and we don't have professionals doing it which is really what leads to the problems (which is probably what leads to the discussion). If we had the right people doing it, the first hint of resistance and the person would be on the ground. As far as the pump goes, I have a copy of the print out from the TSA that says they shouldn't be scanned and give it to the agent. Always raises an eyebrow but they shut up after that.


Does anyone know what precautions are required of someone using a cardiac device? Like a pacemaker, etc? I would think these devices would have similar concerns.