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Wednesday, July 16, 2008 Hal, Community Member, asks

Q: After open heart surgery how soon can I fly?

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Answers (4)
Martin Cane, M.D., Health Pro
7/16/08 8:44pm




Thanks for your question. 


When answering this question about driving, I usually answer that it depends on a patient's recovery from surgery and how they're doing physically.  You would need clearance from your surgeon as well as your medical doctor.  The range I've seen is 6 weeks to 3 months.


However, flying is a much more complicated situation.  You not only need clearance from your doctors, you need to be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  I've had patients with hypertension who would ask me to write a letter to the FAA whenever there was a medication change.  If I performed a yearly evaluation, I would have to write a letter to document their health status.  And certainly, if there was a new diagnosis, the FAA was also informed, and they had the final say concerning flight status. 


In the case of coronary artery disease - post bypass surgery, there is a minimum time period of 6 months for Class III (recreational and private pilot duty) to be considered for recertification.  Certain requirements must also be met before consideration.  These include:


      -the hospital discharge summary, catheterization report, operative report, and hospital        discharge summary

      -a current cardiovascular evaluation including history, physical, blood work, and assessment of 

       current health status

      -a maximal ECG treadmill stress test performed no sooner than six months after the procedure


Once these requirements are met, then the FAA will decide on your flight status.  The FAA is not only concerned with the safety of the pilot, they are also concerned with the safety of passengers and other people.  You can find this and other related information on the FAA website. 


Best wishes.


Martin Cane, M.D.




Martin Cane, M.D., Health Pro
7/18/08 12:01am



My prior answer is obviously geared toward someone who would be piloting the plane.  Perhaps I interpreted the question that way because I have a special interest in that area.


If you are asking about being a passenger on a commercial airliner, the answer would depend on your recovery and any complications that you may have encountered.  Doctors vary on their policies and reasoning, and they would have the final say on allowing you to travel.  They would want to feel comfortable that you were stable with little chance of problems, as you might be quite a distance from where you had your surgery.   


The traveling itself would not be much different than other forms of transportation, except the walking necessary to get to the gate and jetway.  Most airlines will provide airport transport to the gate with a note from your physician.  Modern planes have good pressurization and other comfort controls, so this is not an issue.


I therefore suggest you discuss this with your doctors for their opinion on the timing, and their clearance.


Martin Cane, M.D.

Lewis, Community Member
2/12/10 8:10am

How soon after open heart surgery can someeone fly. I had open heart surgery 2 months ago.

chagringun, Community Member
12/12/10 3:42pm

after open heart surgery, how soon can I fly

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By Hal, Community Member— Last Modified: 04/29/14, First Published: 07/16/08