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Effects of Airport Security on St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Rhythm Devices

Background

Airport security systems are commonly used to detect metal objects (specifically firearms) being carried by travelers passing through the airport. The security gates emit radiofrequency energy that is reflected back to the gates by these objects.

Airport security body scanners (backscatter and millimeter wave) send high frequency electromagnetic waves over the body’s surface. These electromagnetic waves pass through clothing and are reflected by the skin and do not enter the body. The energy reflected back is used to create an image of the person’s body and items within their clothing.

Potential effects

St. Jude Medical does not anticipate any interference with pacing or defibrillation therapy. The pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) will not be damaged or reprogrammed. There is a slight possibility that a pacemaker or ICD may mistake the radiofrequency energy as the heart’s natural rhythm and withhold its pacing output for a single beat. Since the energy emitted by the gates is localized to the area between and around the gates, this potential single-beat inhibition would only occur for the duration that the patient remains in the energy field. Single-beat inhibition is generally not noticed by the patient.

Body scanners should not cause interference with the performance of St. Jude Medical pacemakers or ICDs. A search of literature showed no reports of any interference.

A summary of potential effects is provided in the table below and is based on device testing at St. Jude Medical, clinical experience and/or a review of the scientific literature.

Potential Effect Estimated Frequency
  Pacemakers ICDs
Single beat inhibition Rare Rare

Recommendations

Walk through the gates at a normal pace as instructed by airport personnel. Since pacemakers and ICDs contain metal, it is possible that the pacemaker or ICD may be detected by these systems, so be sure to carry your patient identification card with you when you travel so the airport personnel can verify that you have a pacemaker or ICD. Airport security personnel may prefer to screen patients with a hand held wand or body scanner. The response of pacemakers and ICDs to hand held wands will be the same as to security gates.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact St. Jude Medical Technical Services at 800-722-3774.

PDF Effects of Airport Security on St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Rhythm Devices (18.8kb)
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