A warning published in the journal ‘Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics’ has diabetics and doctors concerned about the dangers of air travel with diabetic medical devices. According to the article, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors could be adversely affected by airport security magnetic x-ray. This refers to x-ray machines used to scan luggage and travelers. It is unclear however whether this warning includes metal detectors; devices that also create a magnetic field.
Medical professionals already know magnetic and radiation based imaging technology like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) interfere with the functioning of diabetes devices. However, initial findings from research conducted by Andrew Cornish and H. Peter Chase at the University of Colorado suggest that magnetic x-ray equipment used in airport security can also hinder the operation of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) devices. The researchers found that magnetic x-ray can cause a malfunction in the devices’ motors.
The amount of diabetics that could be potentially affected worldwide is enormous. In 2010, company Market Research valued global markets for insulin delivery pumps and continuous glucose monitor systems at $7.4 billion and 92.2 million dollars respectively. Further, these markets are expected to steadily increase because of improved patient access to diabetes care and rising cases particularly among children.
There is no doubt that Cornish and Chase’s research raises a public global health risk that demands further exploration. Little is yet known about how magnetic x-ray affects insulin pumps and CGM. More research is necessary to better understand and develop solutions to the problem.
In the interim, patients are advised to travel with a doctor’s letter that forbids subjecting diabetes equipment to x-ray search. For further updates, contact your local Diabetes Association.