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Flying With an Implantable Heart Device

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A reader asks: Is it safe to fly with an implanted heart device such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)?  Here’s our advice … 

Generally speaking, travel -- including air travel -- is safe for people with implantable heart devices when their heart condition is stable. Always talk with your doctor about your travel plans well ahead of time, so that you can have an evaluation, such an electrocardiogram (ECG), if necessary, and get any specific advice. 

There are also a number of general guidelines to follow to make traveling safer and easier. Carry a copy of your medical history, a list of all the medications you are taking, a copy of your most recent ECG if it was abnormal, and an ID card that gives your device type, the device's manufacturer, and your doctor's contact information. 

Airport security gates do not appear to interfere with pacemakers or ICDs, but the devices may set off the alarm. Tell the security officers that you have a heart device (you can also show them your device ID card, although this may not be necessary). 

Often, they will reroute you for an individual check with a handheld wand or a hand search. The hand wand -- which contains a magnet -- theoretically could interfere with your device, so ask for a hand search to be safe. If the wand must be used, tell the security officer it shouldn't be held in front of your ICD or pacemaker for more than a few seconds. Also, check for recent information at www.tsa.gov/travelers

Posted in Heart Health on January 14, 2011


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer


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Health After 50 Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Scientific American Health After 50 or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


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