FAA requirements often include a request for a "detailed status report from your treating physician." A status report, regardless of what it is written for, should include basic comments from your treating physician about your medical history. What is the condition you are being treated for, and when was it diagnosed? What symptoms were noted? How long were you treated? What specific treatment regimen, if any, was followed, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or physical therapy, and what were the dates involved? Was medication prescribed? If so, which medication, in what dosage, and how frequently was it taken? Have there been any side effects from the medication? Are you still taking it, and if not, on what date did you discontinue the medication? What is the prognosis for your condition? Have any lifestyle changes been recommended by your physician, such as a suggestion to stop smoking, begin an exercise program, or make dietary changes, and have you complied?
Are there any limitations placed on your activities, including no heavy lifting or restricted physical activity — and for how long? Some conditions may temporarily or permanently affect an individual's range of motion in areas such as shoulder, back, neck, hip, or leg. Your doctor's status report should mention what percentage of loss you have experienced and whether or not it is permanent. If you're fully functional, with normal range of motion, the status report should mention that, as well.
All physicians have a different idea about what a status report should include. Most importantly, it's a separate report from the other records you may be submitting. The FAA is aware that some information asked for in the status letter may be found in other reports, such as hospital records or consultation notes, but that doesn't replace the FAA's requirement of a separate status report from your doctor. If a status report is required but not provided, your medical will not be approved.
Some doctors will write a single sentence stating, "The patient is doing fine with no complaints, and I can see no reason why he/she should not be cleared to fly." That level of simplicity won't be acceptable, especially if it's hand written on a prescription pad. Other doctors may swing the other way and write a detailed summary that provides far more information than the FAA is asking for. The rule of thumb is to provide enough information to address the FAA's request, but nothing more or less.
If your doctor is concerned about providing a separate status report, or procrastinates in writing it, you may want to draft the report yourself and ask your doctor to review and sign it (assuming you have a good writing style and are familiar with the details of your medical history). Many physicians are concerned about possible liability issues that they perceive might result from reports they write in support of an FAA medical certificate. If your doctor is hesitant to write a status report for you, tell him/her that the FAA makes the ultimate decision about your eligibility for a medical certificate. A status report for the FAA places no more liability on a health care provider than any other consultation letter that physicians dictate on a regular basis to their colleagues.
If you have additional questions, you can e-mail the Medical Certification department or call the Pilot Information Center at 800/872-2672.
Updated July 8, 2011
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