Going Through Airport Security With A Knee Replacement

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Going through airport security after a knee replacement can be an uneasy feeling.  Is it okay to walk through the metal detectors?  Will my new knee set off an alarm?  These are questions you might be asking yourself.

I recently went through airport security just 10 weeks after surgery. Like me, you may have heard different stories of what to expect with airport security.

Some friends had told me that I would receive a special card from my physician that would allow me to skip security. Others told me of the delays and hassle the security process would be once my knee set off the security alarm. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive.

I’ll set the record straight and share what you’ll experience when you go through airport security.  Being prepared is important so I hope this article answers your questions.

What I Was Told About Airport Security

After surgery, I asked several friends about what to expect in the airport.  They told me conflicting stories about airport security. Some told me that the card the doctor would give me would make the process a breeze. I was also told that the process would be a hassle and that I should show up early for my flight because the security process would take longer.

When my doctor gave me the okay to travel ten weeks post-surgery, I asked him about flying and if I would need some special identification to prove I had a knee replacement.

His answer was “no”.

He had never heard of a card issued by a doctor to avoid the security process. He told me to tell security right away that I had a knee replacement. He also told me the knee would set off the alarm and that I would then be screened with a wand.

He assured me that the process would not take any extra time.

Airport Security: What Happened

I entered the airport, checked in, and went to stand in line for my security check. I walked through the scanner and immediately set off the alarm.

I told the TSA employee that I had had a knee replacement. She sent me over to the full body scan. After the full body scan, another TSA employee waived a wand around my knee.

It only took a few seconds and TSA never touched or felt around the knee.  In a matter of seconds, I was on my way to the boarding gate.

>>read my tips on flying after knee replacement

Of note:

Around the same time, I had an additional experience with security on a cruise ship. I always set off the alarm when we docked in ports. On the ship, there were no TSA personnel and all security personnel were crewmembers of the ship.

I had to tell them each time that I had a knee replacement. After setting off the alarm they used a wand on me and sent me on my way except on one occasion when the crewmember started feeling and squeezing the area around my knee.

I complained and received an apology from the crewmember in charge. The crew members obviously lacked training, as this was not their primary job. All in all, my security experiences were positive and were without undue delay.

What About TSA Pre-Check For Knee Replacements

I was fortunate to receive a TSA Pre-approval for security for both of my flights. It was not comfortable for me to stand for long periods of time and the TSA Pre-approval allowed me to avoid long lines.

I know the pre-approval had nothing to do with my knee as there was no way the airline knew at that time that I had had TKR. The Pre-approval was likely due to my age.

Regardless of the reason, it made the security process much easier.


I hope that this article will relieve some of your concerns and fears about going through airport security. I wish that I had gotten the straight scoop before I went through security the first time.

Knowing what to expect makes it much easier.

Don’t worry. It is a simple process and it does not take any longer than going through airport security without a knee replacement.

The TSA personnel were courteous and understanding and made the process easy for me. The more you know about life after TKR the fewer worries you will have. Thanks for reading my article and I hope your travel experience will be as smooth as mine.

8 thoughts on “Going Through Airport Security With A Knee Replacement”

  1. I have traveled often since my knee replacement 2 years ago. Metal detectors in airports, museums, government buildings sometimes register my knee, and sometimes don’t. If they DO, just mention your knee, a wand wave over it and you’re on your way.
    TSA Pre-check, however is NOT worth it.
    I was cleared for it and expected the same as previous screenings. Boy, was I wrong.
    If the alarm goes off, and it WILL. You will be given A COMPLETE PAT-DOWN.
    The same gender agent will ask if you want to go somewhere private.(I did not).
    I have seen since, online that there are forms you can fill out (for disabled flyers) but I don’t know if that would help with Pre-check. It was not worth it! The next woman behind me, had the EXACT thing happen, same knee and all!

  2. If you tell the agent before going through the scan they will take you to the full body scan and scan you knowing what to look for and then will use the wand on your knee areas and you will be on your way. Best to let them know ahead and you won’t have a problem at all. If you don’t tell them ahead of time they think your trying to hide something so DO tell them ahead of time.

    • Only problem with going to the full body scan is that your belongings are left unattended in the pre-check lane. I’m not willing to leave my wallet, electronics, jewelry and medication unattended while I wait in another load be for the full body scanner. The TSA agents in Boston were kind enough to pull my bags off the belt until I returned but other airports were not as accommodating.

  3. I had 2 x Partial knee replacements and did get a card from the hospital stating that I had bilateral partial knee replacements. I have travelled from UK to Europe twice since the operation and once didn’t set the scanners off, and the second time it was actually the zips on my shorts that set the scanner off.

    So, for me – all good experiences, and I have never actually needed to show the card.

  4. I recently had a knee replacement and was told by the doctor I would not set off the alarm. At the weekend I travelled to Ireland and did say before I went through security that I had a knee replacement. Yes I did set off the alarm but it was ok. They then put me in the scanner and was sent on my way. Coming back repeated the process but when I set the alarm off they were doubtful that it was my knee (I am in my early 60’s and you could not see my knee so I wondered if they doubted my excuse). They put the wand over my knee and yes it lit up over my knee so on my way I was sent, so again no problem.

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