Insulin Pumps/CGMS and the Transportation Security Authority

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • Once again, the TSA is coming under fire for possibly damaging sensitive diabetes-related equipment. According to Andrew Cornish and Peter Chase of the Barbara Davis Center Childhood Diabetes Center in Colorado (Cornish A, Chase H. Peter. Navigating airport security with an insulin pump and/or sensor. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics Oct 2012, doi:10.1089/dia.2012.0220), new concerns have been raised about airport screening and possible damage to an insulin pump. The situation was typical. A 16-year old adolescent with type 1 diabetes presented to security for routine scanning. The family was prepared with a doctor’s letter indicating the need for insulin pump therapy to treat her medical condition and advising the TSA to avoid having the child walk through the full body scanner to prevent possible harm to the device. The family requested a “pat-down” instead. According to the authors, despite having actual documentation of TSA rules, the child was forced to walk through the full body scanner with pump attached. (The rule states: ‘‘If you are concerned or uncomfortable about going through the walk-through metal detector with your insulin pump, notify the Security Officer that you are wearing an insulin pump and would like a full-body pat-down and a visual inspection of your pump instead.’’)

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    The family was concerned and although immediate consequences to the pump were unnoticed, they contacted the pump manufacturer who advised them to disconnect the insulin pump as the company could not guarantee the safety of the pump due to possible hypothetical damage.

     

    Included in the paper is an excellent table on page 985 that I pasted excerpts below for future reference.

     

    Devices and Equipment that May Cause Interference

     

    X-rays

    CT Scans

    MRI

    PET Scans

    Airport metal detectors

    Airport body scanners

    Insulin pump

      X

      X

     X

       X

      Y

      X

    CGM monitor

      X

      X

     X

       X

      Y

      X

    CGM transmitter

      X

      X

     X

       X

      Y

      X

    iPro™ recorder (metronic minimed)

     

     

      X

     

      X

     

     X

     

       X

     

      Y

     

      X

    X indicates user should remove item when in the presence of this equipment and Y indicates continued use as normal.

     

    What are the reasons behind these recommendations?

    If an insulin pump or CGMS goes through a full body scanner or the other equipment as noted above, the motor embedded within the devices may malfunction due to electromagnetic currents. Indeed, the pump and CGM manufactures do offer advice about equipment to avoid (after conducting internal tests). Pump company guidelines in regard to airport security state that the CGMS and pump may pass through metal detectors (due to low magnetic energy), but they should be removed if going through an airport body scanner (low energy X-ray device). According to the authors, the only company that does not advise wearers to avoid any scanning machines is the manufacturer of the Omnipod, whose device does not use a direct current motor and is theoretically safe from electromagnetic malfunctioning.

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    Once again, there is evidence-based literature that actually documents more than “hypothetical” problems after going through the airport full body scanners. However, if it is possible to avoid even a “theoretical” risk, it is appropriate to ask for alternative means to pass through security. It should be noted that TSA officials have differing attitudes at each airport location. Smaller airports (Hartford, Connecticut, for example) may be more lenient than others. It is essential that all people with diabetes, with, or without sophisticated technology, bring a travel letter to the airport. Examples of travel letters can be found here.

     

    Happy Travels!

Published On: November 29, 2012