Thursday, May 28, 2020

Driving After Adolescent Spine Surgery
Frequently Asked Questions and General Guidelines

When can I return to driving after surgery?

The ability to return to driving after orthopedic spine surgery us dependent on several factors including the type of surgery performed, the type of car (manual vs automatic) and the surgical site.  Studies using driving simulators have been able to estimate when braking function and reaction time return to normal and can serve as helpful guidelines.  Your doctor will provide you with recommendations individualized to your injury/treatment. 

Estimated return to safe driving after spine surgery
10-14 days
Spine Fusion
6 weeks
Pars Repair
10-14 days

Are there state laws prohibiting driving after surgery?

Laws vary by state.  Missouri and Illinois do not have laws prohibiting driving after orthopedic spine surgery.  If you are involved in a car accident, law enforcement will determine your ability to drive on a case-by-case basis.  Please check your own state laws if driving outside of Missouri or Illinois.
Are there insurance laws prohibiting against driving after surgery?

Some insurance companies may have policies restricting driving after surgery.  Others have no restrictions.  Please check with your insurance carrier to determine if any specific restrictions exist.

Will my doctor “clear” me to drive?

Your doctor CANNOT “clear” or “release” you to drive.  He or she can recommend if driving is unsafe, but cannot make a legal determination of when it is safe to drive.  The decision to return to drive is ultimately your decision.  However, you must never drive if you are taking narcotic pain medication or other medications that may cause drowsiness.

Your doctor will recommend AGAINST driving if:

·       You are taking narcotic pain medication or other medications that may cause drowsiness.
·       You are unable to fully raise both of your arms directly over your head.

Are there things I can do to help the transition back to driving?

When planning to return to driving after surgery your doctor recommends that you practice in a safe environment such as an empty parking lot.  You want be sure you feel comfortable with your reaction time and braking ability.  You should be confident that you would be able to stop suddenly if necessary.  Occupational therapy services exist to assist drivers with return driving after surgery.  Your doctor can provide you with a referral if necessary.


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