When Is Driving Safe After Rotator Cuff Repair?
Two weeks. According to a new study, it is safe for patients who underwent rotator cuff repair to safely return to driving two weeks after surgery.
The study, “Patients Who Undergo Rotator Cuff Repair Can Safely Return to Driving at 2 Weeks Postoperatively,” was published online on July 21, 2022 in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
“Evidence-based guidelines are lacking for return to driving following rotator cuff repair. As a result, surgeons are often overly conservative in their recommendations, placing potential undue burden on patients and their families,” the researchers wrote.
Thirty-two patients were enrolled in the study. Their driving fitness after surgery was evaluated by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine based research team using an instrumented vehicle on public streets. There was a safety monitor onboard, and each patient was tested for parking skills, left and right turns, straightaways, yielding, highway merges and U-turns. The total course length was 15 miles and lasted about 45 to 55 minutes.
Overall, 27 of the patients completed all 5 drives. Their mean age was 58.6 years [range, 43 to 68 years]. The researchers reported that all 13 analyzed kinematic metrics measured from 14 of 17 driving events exhibited noninferiority across all postoperative drives after surgery compared with baseline.
Patients generally braked less aggressively, steered more smoothly, and drove more stable at two weeks post-op. They also drove more smoothly on highway merges starting at postoperative week two (minimum longitudinal acceleration, −0.35 g [95% confidence interval (CI), −0.050 to −0.019 g]; standard deviation of longitudinal acceleration, 0.008 g [95% CI, 0.003 to 0.013 g]). At week 12, they tended to exhibit more aggressive driving and acceleration on highway merges (maximum absolute yaw, −0.8°/sec [95% CI, −1.2°/sec to −0.4°/sec]).
The patient’s baseline driving performance was recorded prior to the surgery and then tested again 2, 4, 6 and 12 weeks after the rotator cuff repair.
“Patients showed no clinically important negative impact on driving fitness as early as 2 weeks after rotator cuff repair. Adaptive behaviors were present both preoperative and postoperatively,” the researchers wrote.
Study authors include Ariel E. Badger, M.S., Linsen T. Samuel, M.D., M.B.A., Allison N. Tegge, Ph.D., Mariette Metrey, B.S., Miguel A. Perez, Ph.D., John R. Tuttle, M.D., M.S., and Peter J. Apel, M.D., Ph.D. The researchers are associated with Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia, Carilion Clinic Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences, Roanoke, Virginia, and Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia.