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Q&A: Atrial Fibrillation and Diabetes

By Penny Giovanetti, D.O. Manager, Aerospace Medical Specialties Division
Source: FAA Safety Briefing, Jan/Feb 2018

Q. I have had atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) most of my life. I started flying before knowing what it was ... it had not been diagnosed at the time. On one flight, while training, I had an irregular heartbeat that prompted my immediate landing. I was soloing as a student pilot in my early twenties. In 2012 I had a cryoablation procedure that has completely resolved my former condition. What might it take to go back to flight lessons and finally obtain my flight license? I would have to start over, of course, as it has been many years since my early flight lessons.

Unfortunately, I am now 58 but have recently become diabetic. Does this condition by itself disqualify me from flying? Thanks for any answers.

A. The easy answer first. Diabetes may be considered for special issuance and we have many airmen flying on medication with well-controlled diseases. Regarding your atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), we would need the report from the procedure in 2012, a current status report from your treating physician, and the full report of a Holter monitor done at least three months after the procedure.

Send your questions to SafetyBriefing@faa.gov. They will be forwarded to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, without your name, and the answer will be published in an upcoming issue of FAA Safety Briefing.

Penny Giovanetti, D.O., received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a master’s in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from Des Moines University. She completed a 27-year career as an Air Force flight surgeon. She is board certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. She is also a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a private pilot.