Can Airport Scanners Detect Blood Clots?

credit: Yay

The sole purpose of airport scanners is to reduce the risks of passengers carrying prohibited items onto an aircraft. They are not diagnostic tools, and the operators are not medical personnel. But can airport scanners detect blood clots?

The airport scanners can potentially detect certain medical issues, which may include blood clots. Images viewed by the security officer are restricted to identifying banned substances. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that a blood clot would be identified.

Can Airport Scanners Detect Blood Clots?

Airport scanners can show unusual shapes on the body and solid masses on a person’s body or in their clothing.

The systems can also detect and display a wide range of metallic and non-metallic threats in a matter of seconds, changes in body thickness, and other objects such as explosives and certain liquids.

In addition, security officers can calculate the density of each object, which is designed to provide information that they can use tosspot threats or other contraband.

While there is no peer-reviewed evidence of blood clots being found, there are instances where other medical issues have been spotted by the TSA.

The imaging technology does not detect items inside a passenger’s body or penetrate the skin. As a result, it is generally accepted that airport scanners cannot detect blood clots or inflammation and only detect items that are not part of the body.

Scanners may detect external skin growths, implants, colostomy bags, prosthetics, and other metallic or non-metallic items that protrude from the body.

Passengers who suffer from extensive blood clots that cause swelling or changes in color on the body’s surface may be picked up.

As the TSA is not a medical agency, the only indication of an anomaly will be when the agent requires a further check or pat down on the person’s body.

How Do Airport Scanners Work?

The early machines used a technology called backscatter X-rays.

Traditional medial x-rays measure the intensity of the x-rays and, therefore, can distinguish between hard and soft materials.

The airport scanner detects the radiation reflected off the human body or other scanned articles. Modern machines produce electromagnetic waves that only penetrate the passenger’s clothing, reflect off the skin or whatever else is concealed, and return an image, which is interpreted by the system’s computer.

Security agencies can see relatively detailed pictures of a person’s clothing, undergarments, and objects hidden under the clothing. They cannot see any items under a person’s skin.

Due to privacy laws, the data is interpreted and turned into a graphic image by a computer, the quality is degraded, and only detected anomalies are overlaid over a generic body outline.

If the electromagnetic waves hit something that seems suspect, a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) will investigate further.

Can You Fly If You Have Blood Clots?

Flying with blood clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is extremely dangerous, and if you have been diagnosed as suffering from blood clots, you should not fly until you are given the “all clear” by your doctor.

If you suffer from the following medical conditions or have had a recent occurrence, it is essential that you first check with your doctor to confirm that you are fit to travel.

  1. You have suffered previously from a previous blood clot.
  2. There is a history of members of your immediate family suffering from blood clots.
  3. You suffer from a diagnosed clotting disorder.
  4. You have recently undergone surgery, hospitalization, or suffered an injury.
  5. You use estrogen-containing birth control.
  6. You have recently received hormone replacement therapy.
  7. You are pregnant or have recently given birth.
  8. You are older than 70 years of age.
  9. You have been clinically diagnosed with obesity.
  10. You are undergoing treatment for cancer.
  11. You suffer from congestive heart failure.
  12. You suffer from inflammatory bowel disease.
  13. Your ability to move is compromised (You have a limb in a cast, you require assistance to walk, or you are wheelchair-bound)

While travel is not precluded if you have had any of these conditions, you must take precautions when flying.

  1. Consult your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you to fly.
  2. Try to book a seat with more legroom (emergency exits are ideal.)
  3. Wear loose-fitting clothing which does not restrict the blood flow.
  4. Wear compression stockings over your legs.
  5. Drink lots of water.
  6. Don’t drink sugary drinks.
  7. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can lead to dehydration and cause platelets (the blood clotting factor) to become stickier.
  8. Avoid crossing your legs
  9. Don’t sit still for the whole flight; instead, take frequent walks around the aircraft.
  10. While seated, try stretching exercises such as calf pumps, turning your foot in a circle, lifting your heel repeatedly with your toes on the floor, and then lifting your toes several times with your heels on the floor.

Should You Go Through An Airport Scanner If You Have A Blood Clot?

There is no danger going through an Airport Scanner when you suffer from a blood clot or any other clotting condition.

The scanners use electromagnetic waves, which cannot penetrate the passengers’ skin.

What Are The Dangers Of Flying With A Blood Clot?

While the blood clot (also known as deep vein thrombosis – DVT) remains localized at the foundation site, it is not considered a serious condition.

However, it represents a significant factor in the future health risk and should be treated by a medical practitioner.

The seriousness of the condition increases exponentially if the blood clot breaks free from the site it originated at and travels to the person’s heart or lungs.

This is a life-threatening condition which is called a pulmonary embolism. When the embolism is considered massive, it causes death in 65% of patients, and therefore it should not be treated lightly.

Symptoms Of A Blood Clot Or Pulmonary Embolism

The symptoms are usually present in one leg but can be in both and include.

  1. Leg swelling
  2. Redness
  3. Pain in the calf or thigh.
  4. If chest pain is experienced, it is time to call for immediate help because it may signify that the clot has moved to the heart.

Which Countries And Airports Use Full Body Airport Scanners?

In America, more than 65 airports use Full Body Airport Scanners. (source: List of airports with Full Body Airport Scanners)

In Europe, countries that employ full-body airports scanners are as follows




Schipol Airport

Edinburgh airport

Edinburgh Airport

Germany – Frankfurt

Frankfurt Airport

Germany – Munich

Munich Airport


Glasgow Airport


Prestwick Airport


Gatwick Airport


Heathrow Airport


Luton Airport


Charles de Gaulle Airport


Orly Airport


Leonardo da Vinci Airport


Fiumicino Airport


Marco Polo

Why Use Airport Scanners?

Body scanners and the staff who operate them are searching for passengers carrying contraband that may threaten fellow passengers or the airline system.

The systems overlay the passenger’s profile with a basic human shape, and the only form the security officer sees is an image that looks like a gingerbread man.

The millimeter wave machines display the basic shape and a signal, which advises the security staff of two possibilities.

  1. Green – Clear
  2. Red – A signal displayed next to the area with the anomaly advises, “Stop for further investigation.”

If the TSA suspects that a passenger has contraband secreted in one of a passenger’s orifices, or something which has been swallowed, the only way they can verify its presence is by ordering a formal x-ray administered by a professional radiologist.