Return to driving after hand surgey

Patients often ask when they are able to return to driving following hand surgery. There are a number of factors that contribute to the ability to drive following hand surgery and these usually are centred on safety.

The type of hand operation can vary from a simple procedure performed under local anaesthesia to a complex reconstruction requiring inpatient admissions.

There are a number of factors involved

Pain

Pain should not be at a level to impair the driver's ability to concentrate. Patients who develop pain on certain movements may be at risk if these movements are avoided due to pain.

Analgesia (Pain killers)

Driving should be avoided if the driver takes any medication that impairs an individual to use machinery. The information leaflet inside the medication packaging will inform you of this.

Anaesthetic

My anaesthetist advises that driving should be avoided for 24 hours following a general anaesthetic.

Plaster cast (splint)

Hand operations that require a plaster or a splint usually delay a return to driving. It is often reported that a patient should not drive with a plaster cast on the wrist. However many plaster casts and splints are low profile, and allow the normal finger movement that would be required to turn a wheel or change gear. I would recommend the individual patient contact their own insurance companies to clarify cover. A patient that is pain free and can operate the car safely, despite a splint, may be able to obtain consent from the insurance company.

Wound stitches

Hand operations will have wounds that require closing at the end of the operation. The stitches are often called sutures. I generally use dissolvable stitches on the back of the hand and non dissolvable stitches on the front of the hand. Driving is possible with stitches in place provided the patient is relatively pain free. While stitches are still in place, the wound should be kept covered to reduce infection risk. There is a small risk that a violent turn of the wheel in an emergency may burst the stitches