Sunday, December 28, 2014

When Can I Drive After Breaking My Foot?

It's that time of year when a lot of people fall, slip, and crash land on the snow and ice, breaking an ankle, foot, or toe. Of all the times of year to be laid up with a broken bone, winter is perhaps the least busy, compared to summer with outdoor activities. 
But if you're like most people, you're likely to get a serious case of cabin fever, as you spend days on the couch recovering, watching television or reading a good book. So when you finally decide to venture outside, is it safe for you to drive a car? How long should you wait?
Unfortunately, there are no concrete guidelines as to when you can drive again after breaking a major bone in your lower limbs. Several recent articles have attempted to summarize contrasting findings of postoperative driving studies. Most studies say that normal braking function returns nine weeks after surgery for an ankle fracture and six weeks after breaking a bone in either the ankle or foot. 
One point all the studies agree on is that the patient should never drive with a cast or brace on the right ankle or foot.
The goal of these studies was to see how long it takes recuperating patients to make an emergency stop and to encourage doctors to have conversations with their patients about safety behind the wheel. Doctors have often been hesitant to give any advice with regards to driving and broken bones, for fear of getting sued if the patient got into an accident or if driving aggravated the injury. One study shows that 35% of doctors never even talk about safe driving after an injury. Even if doctors have the conversation with their patients, many times the advice goes unheeded.
"As surgeons, we can't clear someone for driving, but we can educate them," said Dr. Geoffrey S. Marecek, co-author of one review, which was recently published in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "I tell my patients, 'No immobilization, full range of motion without pain, and then we'll talk about it.'
"But that's common sense and not science," Dr. Marecek, an assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine added.
However, most physicians would tailor the advice to the patient and procedure, factoring in pain tolerance, medications, postoperative mobility, and mental acuity. With no gold-standard in place, it's difficult to make a blanket statement.
If you break a bone in your foot or ankle, make sure you speak with your podiatrist about how long you should wait before getting behind the wheel.
Reference: New York Times
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