TSA Screeners Destroy Teenager's Insulin Pump

Saw a link to this story on the Drudge Report. Given the number of views he gets every day, this will bring a little bit of awareness to many who don't know what an insulin pump is.

Anybody else with a pump have problems with the TSA? Let's hear about it and how you handled it.

I've never had a problem in 5 years of pumping going through security. I have been asked to take it off but I refused calling it an "implanted medical device". I think I scared the screener. She swabbed it and off I went. I was pumping before the new scanners so always just wore it through the metal detector and had no problems. I understand you are not supposed to wear the pump through the full body scanner. I've never minded the pat down as I've always found them quite professional.

My Omnipod and Dexcom sensor does not trigger the metal detector. However at more and more places they are doing the full body scan and it will show up....then I am asked to step aside to a private screening area where they ask me to touch the pump with both hands. They swab my hands for explosives and then let me go. It is a pain in the you-know-what.

I saw this story too on a local news channel's website (http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/31025318/detail.html), but can't help wonder how long the individual has been pumping and thus the likelihood they should have been aware that the pump might sustain damage? I admit that, not being a pumper, I lack the information and education necessary to make a judgment -- but I thought pumps could be disconnected temporarily with little consequence?

The tubed type pumps can be disconnected from the body temporarily. That is not the problem. The problem is what the TSA want to do with it. As an electrical engineer, I can tell you there is a real possibility that X-rays can disrupt the microprocessor in the pump or erase its memory and programming. The chances that this will happen depend on the intensity and length of exposure of the X-rays as well as how well shielded the electronic components are. That is why Animas told her to take the pump off. In the worst case scenario, some bits could be changed in the pumps memory that would alter basal rates or cause a bolus to be delivered. I am sure the pumps have safeguards against this built in, but it remains a possibility.

As a practical matter, I have been through the (non-xray) millimeter wave imagers with the Omnipod, and so far it hasn't caused a problem.

I would be able to grok the story, if it said how the pump was broken. Or even when the pump was broken. Did it break when disconnected? Did the TSA manhandle it? Did it catch on fire in the scanner? Dropped on the floor? ???

Disconnecting a pump and running it through the scanner, I would not expect to break the pump. All kinds of electronics and mechanics get run through the scanners without a glitch all the time.

I have called Medtronic several times with this question. Every time they have told me that my pump may not continue to work correctly if exposed to the rays in the full body scanner. TSA agents at several different airports have told me that the machines pose no risk to my pump. I opt for the pat down, (which in the last few months has really been rubbing my hands on my pump and having them swabbed by the TSA agent) because it is easier for me to do that than risk damage to my pump. In my opinoin, the biggest inconvenience is waiting for them to find a female agent. I really wouldn't object to a male swabbing my palms, since it is completely noninvasive, but that is not their protocol. At one airport they did allow me to disconnect the pump from the reservoir and go through the scanner while the agent held my pump.

Put the pump in the small of your back when going through a metal detector and it doesn't detect it. I have done it many times and never once has it went off. My only issue has been on the actual plane when another passenger thought it was a bomb and told the flight attendant. She came over to me and asked me what it was and I showed her my dr's note and it turned out i had a dr sitting next to me and he told her what it was as well.

More DRAMA at the airport! My own pump clearly says not to wear it in x-ray, fbs, mri, or any other magnetic, radiative, or electromagnetic equipment. The pump can be damaged. It also says the metal detectors are okay. As for disconnecting it...sure that's an option but the pump would still be analyzed, and I don't want anyone touching mine. I just opt for the pat down and avoid the drama. I have never announced my diabetes or my pump at all when going through security. My carry on gets more scrutiny than I do usually!

I know it's off-topic, but what an awesome job Heinlein did on that book :)

I just sent an email to TSA about this EXACT issue. The TSA staff should NEVER give what amounts to medical advice. They are not doctors nor are they device manufacturers. They should not say that taking a medical device through a full-body scanner (which is different from the traditional metal detectors) is ok.

Medtronic clearly tells people that the full-body scanners may cause insulin pumps to malfunction. This is not 100% but certain interference can weaken or damage various components of the pump. When I received my latest pump (Minimed), the trainer told me to absolutely NOT go through the full-body scanner wearing it, because they just don't know enough about the interference these scanners create. If a pump malfunctions, it could not deliver boluses or basal insulin properly.

In addition, you DO NOT want to disconnect from the pump when going through security for a very important reason - if you're a T1, you have no basal insulin in your system. What if someone steals that pump when it's temporarily disconnected from you? What if a TSA agent messed with your settings? What if you got pulled for more extensive screening and the TSA agent wouldn't let you grab your pump for fear that it was "dangerous?" All these things could put you in serious danger of going into DKA and it's not worth the risk.

I just tell TSA agents that I cannot disconnect from it and it's a life-sustaining medical device that cannot be exposed to x-rays. Most of the time, they just do the pat-down and it's fine. But when it's not fine, it's a huge headache.

This is a thread that was posted in insulin pumps a while back.
Insulin pumps have almost no metal in them and I have never had mine trigger the detector.
The best thing we can do is make sure we have no other metal and go through and not declare that we have anything.

The times that I declare it, they tell me they need to see it and there by handling it or taking it out of my sight. It is not longer sterile and I don't want to put it back on after that.

I find the best way to deal with it is to say nothing, Insulin pumps are allowed to be worn through the metal detector as are glucose sensors. If you ever get an alarm, then I would suggest telling them about it, and remind them that you can't remove it because it is sterile.

All the pump manufacturers tell you to not xray them. There is no reason to anyway.

You may have to remind them of their own rules.

If you were flying internationally and they insisted on xraying it, I suggest you take out the battery because it is less likely to be damaged that way.

What's interesting about this article is I had a conversation with the TSA guy patting me down, last week, about this exact thing happening. I can't go through the scanner because it will damage the insulin pump and will void the warranty. I always opt out and get a pat down.

As for how the machine damages the pump, remember that microwaves or x-rays are high frequency energy sources. As you the increase frequency, receiving antenna sizes become smaller. This is why your wifi router at 2.4GHz has a small antenna and a FM radio antenna (telescoping type) at 80-108MHz is significantly larger). Given this, maybe the tiny copper traces in the pump can become receiving antennas for that directed high frequency energy. Not a nice thing to do to your insulin pump's computer.

The metal clip on the Animas Ping will set off the metal detector. The way around that is to wear the pump, without the clip, in your back pocket or use a nonmetallic clip.

Well, I've only flown a couple of times since they put the body scanners in, but as I did before, I simply disconnect right before going through whatever x-ray machine they're using; I put my pump in a sealable baggie, and then hand it to the inspector and ask that it be hand inspected, explaining that it's an insulin pump. So far, no problem. (and, by the way, they've never taken it out of my sight...they usually give it a quick inspection and hand it back on the other side of the scanner.)

Several years ago I had a problem when I went to disconnect because the inspector saw me doing that and started screaming at me, "No, No, that's an insulin pump - you can't take it off!" I ended up with a patdown because I refused to walk through the scanner with my pump on.

And then there was the time I was returning to my cruise ship in Cadiz, Spain...the ship wasn't a problem, but they make you go through Spanish security before you can even walk out to the ship...they were very nice, called over someone who spoke at least some
English, but they ended up making me take the battery and reservoir out and they were sticking their fingers in the holes to make sure there was nothing hidden in there...eew! Man, I swabbed that pump with about 20 alcohol swabs as soon as I got back to my cabin!


I went through Manchester (NH) TSA today and what a fiasco it was. These people were either very lazy, or just wanted to be a pain in the ■■■. They kept insisting that I go through the Body scanner (NO!), and I asked for a pat down. I don't have a problem with the pat down. They took my Animas Bag with my insulin and supplies and went through them without me watching. Needless to say, I got back my bag with insulin boxes opened (I always travel with extras), and my opened insulin stuffed into another medication boxes. I'm due to travel later this month and I am always open and agreeable with TSA staff, but Manchester TSA just thought they could run off with supplies. The other airports I have been through I don't have these problems. Is there no national standard these people have to study and follow?

They have a training manual all the agents are supposed to follow and more training on-top of the training. Remember there are words they are programmed to respond to such as "Opt Out" and "Supervisor". By saying "Opt-Out" they (any TSA agent) has to give you a pat-down and you get to bypass the cancer-tron 9000 scanner. Don't be afraid to speak up about your property. Always be calm yet stern and don't let them bully you.

It depends on the TSA agent too, I went through Manchester (MHT) a number of times and most of the agents acted like normal people. You probably got the bad apple. I know because I got one of those once a few years ago, like he never heard of diabetes or insulin before in his life, and proceeded to unload my entire cool-pack in front of me (pre-pump days). If you are worried about the agent, remember you can always get a supervisor by saying the other programmed word "Supervisor". Know your rights and remember a police officer is the real officer while the TSA are just agents.

Oh boy, this reminds me of this picture!


Thanks Coffee! Good advice.I've been through MHT before with no problem, but I guess the Cancer-Tron 9000 has already gotten to them! :)

It's what the BSofA calls it. They make fun of the TSA often. This video is about Security Theater.

I have an Omni Pod & have flown several times. The most they do to me is ask what it is & then use the wand & pat me down. Once the TSA officer asked if I would mind if he brought other TSA officers over so they could see my pump to help them in the future ( they had not seen an Omni Pod before). It was kind of neat, they all took turns checking it out & I explained a bit about it.