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This article originally posted 02 November, 2012 and appeared in  Safety and Error PreventionMedical DevicesPublic HealthIssue 650

Airport Full-Body Scans Can Cause Malfunction of Insulin Pumps and CGMS Systems

A new report suggests people with diabetes who wear an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitoring device may encounter a problem when going through a full-body scanning machine....

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As the authors of the report note, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring devices are at risk of electromagnetic malfunction if they are taken through imaging devices. More specifically, here is a list of diabetic medical devices and imaging equipment that may cause interference:

  • Insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, continuous glucose monitor transmitters, and the iPro Recorder (from Medtronic) can be affected by computer-assisted tomography (CAT), x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and airport body scanners.
  • All of these same medical devices are not affected by airport metal detectors

To be safe, therefore, anyone who has any of these devices should opt out of full-body scans and request a pat-down or to be checked with a regular metal detector. Medtronic, for example, provides patients with Airport Security Guidelines which explain that their continuous glucose monitoring devices and pumps can be taken through metal detection but that both devices must be removed if patients go through a full-body scanner.

The company also provides patients with information cards that can be shown to TSA screeners. Another pump manufacturer, Animas Corporation, recommends patients avoid exposing their pumps to x-rays and ask for a hand-wand inspection. Insulet Corp. has a pump system that uses a technology that makes it theoretically immune from electromagnetic problems.

The possibility that going through airport security could impact and damage insulin pumps brings to mind another security issue regarding insulin pumps and other implanted medical devices. Numerous experts have been investigating the possibility that hackers can remotely infiltrate insulin pumps, pacemakers, and other healthcare technology, causing them to malfunction.

So while advances in medical technology are helping improve the lives of individuals who have serious health issues, they also have the potential to makes those lives more complicated. For people who have insulin pumps or sensors, precautions should be taken when traveling to help ensure these critical medical devices don't become victims of airport security.

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 

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This article originally posted 02 November, 2012 and appeared in  Safety and Error PreventionMedical DevicesPublic HealthIssue 650

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