View Full Version : Made to go through the AMD with a pacemaker

21st Jul 2008, 09:38
Hi All,

I was wondering if any of you may be able to help me with a problem that a relative has encountered as a result of airport security and that lead to a major health scare?

My girlfriend's grandad, who is 79 years old, recently went on holiday from Bournemouth Airport and even though he has a pacemaker, and mentioned that he had one at security, was made to go through the Archway Metal Detector (AMD) by security staff. This stopped his pacemaker and the next day he was admitted to hospital in Portugal. He remained there for 5 days before he was flown back to the UK free of charge by Palmair.

I want to know how to go about making a complaint / getting him compensation. He was obviously not in a good physical state as a result of being made to walk through the archway and potentially could have died had he not gone to hospital. Whilst Palmair were excellent in looking after him and getting him back to the UK Bournemouth Airport security seem to me to be at fault and completely negligent in their care for him. Having previously worked at several airports I know that persons fitted with pacemakers should not go through AMD's!

Does anyone know how I should procede with this? Whilst I know who operates the airport I am not sure how to file my complaint??? I don't like sensationalist journalists much but had considered maybe getting in touch with one or even ringing up one of those 'where there is blame there is a claim' companies. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



peter we
21st Jul 2008, 09:46
Go and see a lawyer.

21st Jul 2008, 10:02
You are right to make an issue of this, it is a serious matter. Go and see a lawyer.
He should get some compensation, but more than this the ensuing publicity will ensure that security staff are more careful and less heavy-handed in future.
You will be doing us all a favour.

21st Jul 2008, 10:25
Did he have a letter from the doctor/pacemaker card?

21st Jul 2008, 10:29
This stopped his pacemaker, and the next day he was admitted to hospital in Portugal. He remained there for 5 days

The surprising thing here is that the effect was not more immediate ( ie cardiac arrest after going through the AMD ) if the pacemaker was rendered U/S.

As in the case of people like diabetics who have to carry needles on long flights, in this sort of case a doctor's note clearly explaining about the pacemaker might have made the security staff more receptive.

It certainly warrants a complaint to the airport's management.

21st Jul 2008, 10:38
Bournemouth Echo: Contact Us: Got a story? (http://www.thisisbournemouth.co.uk/contactus/)

Get it taken up with the local paper, they'll happily run it and the nationals will most likely pick up on it. Compensation will soon follow and a grovelling apology.

21st Jul 2008, 10:39
Pacemakers do not necessarily produce pacing pulses all the time. They monitor the heart's performance and apply pacing pulses when necessary. Thus stopping the pacemaker today could easily not produce any effects until days or even weeks later, depending on the exact reason for the pacemaker being fitted and the problems the heart gets.

Hopefully, the pacemaker could be restarted externally in this case - modern pacers can generally be communciated with, either by radio or an external inductive system.

I agree with sallyanne and peterwe - this is too serious a matter for just a letter to airport management. See a lawyer. How about a complaint to the police of ABH? After all, security give PAX enough aggrovation - time for them to get some back!

21st Jul 2008, 11:15
This is alarming - I acquired a pacemaker earlier this year and use BOH/Hurn.

I hope the unfortunate gentleman is now getting better and will be able to have his holiday before too long.

I was under the impression that the detectors, while not desireable, would not stop the pacemaker but would set off the alarms unecessarily. Clearly I was mistaken - or maybe there are different sorts of pacemaker - and detectors.

For myself, I have been through BOH security twice in the past 2 months and had no difficulty at all; each time I was hand checked with efficiency and good humour.

Given the demographics of the Hurn catchment area one would imagine that they see several pacemakers every day. While by no means excusing what happened I wonder if there might have been a communication failure - did they really understand that he had a pacemaker? BOH now has - happily - many more flights but still only one queue feeding two baggage scanners - when 3 or 4 departing flights coincide (albeit only 737s) it can all get rather anxious and hectic.

Each time I made my predicament known at the first point of contact - the lady feeing my belongings into the scanner - who called the chap doing the check, and I was immediately ushered through.

Similarly, the pacemaker caused no problems at all on a trip to the USA, El Salvador and Mexico in April. It just took a little longer but everyone concerned clearly regarded pacemakers as routine. Only in El Salvador did they ask me to verify that I did indeed have a pacemaker, and then with courtesy. Some of the Americans were almost comic in their exagerated politeness.

21st Jul 2008, 11:24
Some of the Americans were almost comic in their exagerated politeness.

Before anyone from the New World jumps in with claims of Yank bashing - this is a compliment. :)

21st Jul 2008, 11:39
I have had an ICD (Implanted Cardiac Defibrillator), which includes a pacemaker, for 4 years now, and have never had a problem with security searches. Southampton Hospital, who fitted the device, provided me with a card in a number of languages, to produce at security so that I could avoid going through a magnetic checking system.

I've flown and cruised around the world and have always been treated with understanding and courtesy.

There may have been a communication problem here as we've just moved from Bournemouth to Leeds and they certainly knew about ICDs at Bournemouth security when I went through.


21st Jul 2008, 12:35
Absolutely - much, much, preferable to the alternative!


21st Jul 2008, 12:46

Sorry that your relative was affected by this issue, for someone else it could be potentially life threatening. I asume that this matter is known to his cardiologist who will be taking the appropriate steps together with medical devices specialists to ensure that the device is functioning correctly.

Pacemakers are programmed using electromagnetic induction. Users are advised not to wear magnetic fasteners on their blouses never mind going through a metal detector!

As this happened in the UK I expect that his UK cardiologist has reported this adverse incident to the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. They may perform an investigation alongside the pacemaker's manufacture, in this case I'd be very suprised if they didn't.

Make sure that this incident has been reported and ask for the hospital and the MHRA to copy you into all correspondence, it will add considerable weight to any valid claim.

The following is an extract from their website, www.mhra.gov (http://www.mhra.gov)

Reporting problems with implantable pacemakers and defibrillators

Printer friendly version (new window) (http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&ssDocName=CON2023429&ssTargetNodeId=836&DynamicListQuery=&DynamicListSortBy=xCreationDate&DynamicListSortOrder=Desc&DynamicListTitle=&PageNumber=1&Title=Reporting%20problems%20with%20implantable%20pacemakers %20and%20defibrillators&ResultCount=10)
Related information:

MHRA pages:

Reporting adverse incidents (http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&nodeId=291)
Featured publications:

DB 2006(01) Reporting Adverse Incidents and Disseminating Medical Device Alerts (http://www.mhra.gov.uk/Safetyinformation/Generalsafetyinformationandadvice/Product-specificinformationandadvice/Cardiacpacemakersanddefibrillators(implantable)/Reportingproblemswithimplantablepacemakersanddefibrillators/CON2023058)

For patients
If you are a UK patient with an implantable pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and have concerns about:

whether your implant is working correctly
your implant being affected by a manufacturer's safety advisory notice
the effects of your occupational environment on your pacemaker
possible interference effects from general electrical equipment, mobile phones or rooftop aerial masts
shopping where electronic article surveillance anti-theft systems exist
suitability to travel and airport security metal detectors
forthcoming general surgery and how your pacemaker or ICD might be affected then you should seek advice from the hospital pacemaker/ICD follow-up clinic you normally attend.General booklets about implantable pacemakers or ICDs are available from the British Heart Foundation - Heart Information Line 08450 70 80 70. Or write to
British Heart Foundation
14 Fitzhardinge Street
London W1H 6DH
Tel: 020 7935 0185
For clinicians
The MHRA encourages cardiologists and physiologists, who manage patients with pacemakers and ICDs, to report adverse incidents where deterioration of the device has led to patient harm - or could have done so.
Examples of adverse incidents associated with implantable pacemakers, ICDs and accessories include:

premature battery depletion (taking into consideration programmed settings and usage)
unclear or conflicting battery status/longevity indicators
lack of battery status indicators within manufacturer specified periods
unexpected decrease/increase in lead impedance
unexpected programming problems
inappropriate delivery of therapy
non-delivery of therapy
unexplained or non-reversible permanent backup mode pacing
device/programmer telemetry failure (inability to reprogramme)
abnormal programmer/device behaviour following software upgrades.In consultation with clinicians, the MHRA has developed a dedicated adverse incident report form for pacemakers and ICDs.
Reports can be made online via the MHRA website (preferred), alternatively a dedicated malfunction report form can be downloaded from the website and reports e-mailed/faxed to the MHRA Adverse Incident Centre.
Full information and guidance on reporting Adverse Incidents is published annually in a MHRA Device Bulletin titled 'Reporting Adverse Incidents and Disseminating Medical Device Alerts'.
For manufacturers
Manufacturers have a legal obligation to report direct to the MHRA any occurrence (within the UK) where a patient has died, or has been harmed, as a result of an adverse incident occurring with a pacemaker or ICD - or where there was potential for death or harm to occur.
Manufacturers should refer to The Vigilance Systemhttp://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/images/MHRALook/img/icon/acroread.gif (http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/idcplg?IdcService=GET_FILE&dDocName=CON007491&RevisionSelectionMethod=Latest) (776Kb) for specific guidance on requirements to report adverse incidents. They should also consult the Active Implantable Medical Device Directive (http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&numdoc=31990L0385&model=guichett) (external link).
The MHRA has developed a Manufacturer Online Reporting Environment (MORE) to facilitate incident reporting by manufacturers."

You can report it yourself but it's better done by the staff at his hospital who will (should?) be managing this serious untoward incident.

I hope he suffers no long term ill effects from this treatment and remember that aside from the issue compensation making a sensible and proper fuss could prevent this happening to someone else.

21st Jul 2008, 13:58

Biotronik, Medtronic, St Jude Medical and Boston Scientific all have pacemakers with a radio interface as well/instead of magnetic induction. The first three use the band assigned to Medical Implant Communications Service at 402 - 405 MHz: Boston Scientific devices using 915MHz aren't used in Europe.

If you want more information, send a PM

21st Jul 2008, 14:37
Before anyone from the New World jumps in with claims of Yank bashing - this is a compliment.

I am told by those in the know that the TSA has had a major shake-up in the courtesy department, and if any agent is less than completely courtious (business-like) they will be shown the door, pronto.
At OAK last week, through TSA security in three minutes, flat. Very well organized.

21st Jul 2008, 14:41

This is indeed alarming. General advice given to pacemaker patients is that they should not pass through metal detector gates if possible, however they or their pacemaker will not come to harm if they are made to do so. The action of passing through a magnetic field may temporarily place the pacemaker into a testing mode, but normal device function will return once they exit the field. The patient may be aware of a temporary increase in heart rate during this but it is not dangerous and certainly should not be permanent. There are no reports in the medical literature of such actions occuring (and believe me any interested doctor would love to write up such a paper, a recent report of IPODs potentially causing interference gathered much media attention but has since been proved to have been somewhat flawed), and pacemaker manufacturers undertake extreme testing to ensure devices are well protected from accidental magnetic field or RF exposure.
What was the outcome with the your g/f's Grandad and his pacemaker? ie.

What symptoms did he experience and when?
What actions were performed to confirm a pacemaker issue? - What was found and how was it dealt with? (surgical replacement / reprogramming / lead repositioning etc.)
Who in the UK is aware of this? GP / Pacing clinic / Cardiologist / Pacemaker manufacturer / MHRA?

I work in healthcare in the UK and specialise in Pacemakers / ICDs. Please pm me if you'd prefer. There are a couple of points here which suggest the full story is not known and clarification is needed before you begin action which may be expensive and unnecessary.

21st Jul 2008, 15:53
Thanks to everyone for your replies and comments! I believe he was goinf to the hospital to see the specialist today but do not have any further information on what they found and will have to ask my GF later. I know that I need to get an exact explaination of what happened from him before we decide whther to make a claim but this is not the easiest of things to do as his memory is not as good as it used to be.

Thanks again!


Big Tudor
21st Jul 2008, 16:06
Would say you need to lodge the complaint sooner than later ES. Any security camera / CCTV footage could be valuable in proving what happened, but they won't keep the tapes/discs forever. If you lodge the complaint at least you can ask that the images be saved (if they haven't been lost already).

21st Jul 2008, 16:24
I am told by those in the know that the TSA has had a major shake-up in the courtesy department, and if any agent is less than completely courtious (business-like) they will be shown the door, pronto.
At OAK last week, through TSA security in three minutes, flat. Very well organized.

For once I can actually agree with 411A, TSA has much improved. UK Airport Security is probably about the worst of the western world nowadays...

21st Jul 2008, 17:46
Seems to be a lot of contradictory info on the web. Several sites say things like this...

Pacemaker Frequently Asked Questions (http://www.wiganleigh.nhs.uk/Internet/Specialties/Cardiology/pacemaker_faq.asp)

Can security equipment in Airports and Shop entrance damage or interfere with my pacemaker? ....snip...

Your pacemaker will not be affected by the security system. However the metal case around your pacemaker could set off the alarm.

Pacemakers: Generating regular heartbeats - MayoClinic.com (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pacemakers/HQ01165)

Security Systems. Passing through an airport metal detector won't interfere with your pacemeker, although the metal may sound an alarm

I suspect you may have a battle for compensation if the effect wasn't instant. Proving it was the security scanner might be difficult unless the pacemaker has some kind of data logging built in.

21st Jul 2008, 17:59
I suspect you may have a battle for compensation if the effect wasn't instant. Proving it was the security scanner might be difficult unless the pacemaker has some kind of data logging built in.
You may very well be correct. But surely the point here is that the training and instructions given to security staff should be such that the risk isn't taken. Whether or not the pacemaker was actually affected, the elderly person had a heart condition and the stress of being forced to go through the arch which he knew was the wrong thing to do could in itself have made him ill.
I believe the complainant has a duty to press a complaint in order to prevent this sort of bullying being repeated on other, perhaps less fortunate, victims.

21st Jul 2008, 18:20
Not wishing to belittle the gentleman's suffering or to dispute the security staff should be aware of the consequences but just how was he 'forced' or 'made' to go through the scanner?

22nd Jul 2008, 06:31
SallyAnn - Oh I agree he should complain and should recieve some kind of compensation but if the company deny any wrong doing or liability I would be wary about spending a lot of time and money on it unless there is evidence of the link. Report from the hospital?

Dollydaydream - He is 79. He's got a flight to catch, he's probably been told it's ok and he's holding up a queue. Not hard to imagine what might have happend.

Final 3 Greens
22nd Jul 2008, 07:45
I would have thought that any reasonable security officer, when confronted by a 79 year old who believes that they have a pacemaker fitted, would give them a hand search instead of the arch.

Even if the person is confused and what they are saying is incorrect, its hardly going to occur every five minutes is it?

The UK seems to treat older people with a lack of respect and courtesy.

22nd Jul 2008, 10:41
There is anecdotal evidence about problems with pacemakers and electric trains in Belgium and Sweden: the electrification in these countries is at 16-2/3Hz, and thyristor controlled trains running slowly produce quite intense magnetic field bursts. These frequencies are low enough to get picked up on the leads and get into the sensing circuitry. However, my contacts in the pacemaker manufacturers have not yet found any solid evidence.

Shows the advantage of steam.....

22nd Jul 2008, 15:50
Ignoring what hcould have happened and the technicalities of pacemakers it must have been clear that the pacemaker was affected by the AMD, so as a result,,

Sue the Ba:mad:ds for as much as you can get!!!!!! :ok:

22nd Jul 2008, 18:09
I am aware he is 79 and am presuming he is in a fair state of health both physically and mentally, I am also presuming he is not travelling alone.
He and his family will have been issued with information regarding his pacemaker i.e. type, things to avoid, things to watch out for etc so I find it hard to believe that even the most hardened security folks would 'force' him through the arch. I would have though a firm NO and I want to speak to a supervisor would do it.
I agree elderly people are not always treated with respect but I do think people - of all ages - have to take some responsibility for themselves.
And just for the record I am in no way condoning the actions of security who allowed him to go through.

22nd Jul 2008, 18:43
And just for the record I am in no way condoning the actions of security who allowed him to go through.I think you are, inadvertantly or subconsiously. Pretty clear to me that security did not simply "allow" him to go through, they instructed him to do so.

A lot of us on here will not take BS from security staff, but that's because we're familiar with the process. I imagine the overwhelming majority of the general public will trust (for want of a better word) that those in security have both the knowledge and authority necessary to do their jobs. Or be cowed into accepting a procedure even though it doesn't feel right to them. And if one is 79, then...

Give him a break; place the blame where it belongs :*

22nd Jul 2008, 18:49
I am not in the business of 'placing blame' - I, and I suspect the majority of posters on this thread, do not know exactly what happened. I am merely suggesting that people take on some responsibility for things that happen to them rather than being ever ready to 'place the blame'

Final 3 Greens
22nd Jul 2008, 20:30
I am merely suggesting that people take on some responsibility for things that happen to them rather than being ever ready to 'place the blame'

Just my opinion, but at 79 years old I believe someone has earned the right to courteous, careful treatment - most are vulnerable at that age.

But then again, one of the reasons I emigrated from the guano deposit known as the UK was because of such brutish behaviour, which is now apparently a societal norm.

I notice about another million Brits did the same thing, maybe there is a message in their somewhere.

Dollydaydream, you should be ashamed of your comments.

22nd Jul 2008, 22:57
I am not ashamed of any comment I have made - I have not said he was not entitled to courteous, careful treatment. Whether someone is 79, 109 or 9 I believe in treating them how I would wish to be treated myself. You will have to take my word for it but I am one of the most polite, courteous and caring people you would wish to meet. I also have an extensive background within the NHS dealing with both the elderly and pacemakers!!
My original post was intended to raise the question of who had 'forced' this gentleman to go through the detector. I think it was a strong phrase to use and I stand by what I said.

And ....final greens.... just out of interest my father and grandfather who lived to the ages of 91 and 98 respectively would have been deeply offended to have been described as 'vulnerable' at the age of 79!!

Brutish behaviour may well be 'a social norm' as you put it but I don't think it is confined to age and I don't recall the original poster describing anyone's actions as such.

23rd Jul 2008, 00:33
A point to bear in mind is that whilst a lot of the youth of today (and a lot of middle aged people) have little or no respect for the police or other people in uniform, the same isn't generally true of the "older generation".

This gentleman of 79 may well have believed that he had no option but to do as instructed, especially if the "security" staff were in uniform, and it might not even of crossed his mind that he could object or refuse their commands.

23rd Jul 2008, 09:08
The last thing I wanted was for this to cause arguments... and to clarify he was travelling alone. The one good thing about the whole situation was the helpfulness and duty of care provided by palmair when he was rushed to hospital. No wonder they were recently voted as one of the top airlines


23rd Jul 2008, 09:15
Surely this is a matter for the police and, dare I say it, Health and Safety.

If someone's life has been put at risk by faulty/ignored procedures then simply discussing it on a web site doesn't cut the mustard.

23rd Jul 2008, 10:14
Yes, I agree and certainly wouldn't want anyone else to be made to go through the same situation. Unfortunately though the gentleman in question is very forgetfull and we are still trying to get hold of all the facts. He is easily confused and we need to ensure that we have an account of exactly what happened before it can be taken any further.

Once again I would like to thank all of you for your advice and opinions on this and I will let you know what happens


23rd Jul 2008, 10:31
I will no doubt have accusations hurled at me again but if this gentleman is so confused and forgetful how can you be sure what happened and is he safe to be going off on holiday alone - pacemaker or not!

I sincerely hope he is well and has made a full recovery but I stand by all my previous comments.

23rd Jul 2008, 16:20
Surely this is a matter for the police and, dare I say it, Health and Safety.I imagine the tabloids might be interested too.

"Pensioner in Airport Heart Horror".

Final 3 Greens
23rd Jul 2008, 17:21
Well you can't have it both ways, Dollydaydream

He is either vulnerable and deserves careful treatment or his is not in which case his version of events is clear.

23rd Jul 2008, 18:32
Obviously clearer than yours final 3 greens!!

If he is so vulnerable as to be confused as eagle star now mentions then I question his capability to travel alone.

Should perhaps security launch a counter claim!!!
Tabloid headline......
' Elderley, confused man with pacemaker left to travel alone'

Not me who wants it both ways:ugh:

Final 3 Greens
23rd Jul 2008, 21:22

Many older people are not as sharp as they were in their younger days.

That does not make them unfit to travel.

I had the privilege og assisting an octegenerian a couple of months ago, in navigating an airport she was unfamiliar with.

I find your attitude reprehensible.

Eagle Star, I second Sally Ann's comment earlier in the thread and believe that you should take appropriate action to reduce the risk of this happening to anyone else.

23rd Jul 2008, 21:46
This must be getting rather boring to others now but I must ask ...
.............what exactly is it that you find so reprehensible about my attitude?

I have given my opinion based on the facts that have been posted ....

i.e. that a 79 year old gentleman, forgetful and prone to confusion appears to have been travelling alone and become ill after seemingly passing through the metal detector causing his pacemaker to malfunction.

Now, in my opinion he is either mentally fit enough to travel unaided and comprehend the contra-indications of the AMD as regards his, presumably, on demand pacemaker and therefore perfectly able to inform security that he is NOT able to pass through and if necessary, would like to speak to a supervisor - there are always plenty about.
The alternative appears to be that he shouldn't be travelling alone. We are informed that he was 'made' to go through, how do we know? We are informed he is forgetful and confused, maybe he forgot he had a pacemaker, maybe he forgot he should steer clear....we may never know!

But, final 3 greens, I agree we should help our fellow man, offer the elderly assistance, intervene when trouble starts but maybe some people are afraid to do that for fear of ending up as a tabloid headline or in court!

I know what I would have done in that situation and my conscience is perfectly clear regardless of how you wish to insult me.

Final 3 Greens
23rd Jul 2008, 23:01
There is no point saying anything else to you, so I shall stop now.

This is a time when I am reminded how useful the ignore feature on PPrune is and now it is working to filter out nything from you in the future.