How Long After Wrist Surgery Can I Drive (And Why)?

Exact Answer: After 4-6 weeks

One can have wrist surgeries due to many reasons like tendon repair, carpal tunnel release, fingertip fixation, etc. Such syndromes usually occur due to accidents or sudden injuries caused during work. When the bones in the palm or wrist need fixtures, it is done by surgery using tools like screws, pins, plates, etc. The process of wrist fixation by surgery lasts from 12 to 30 hours. It is not painful to the patient as he/she is given anesthesia beforehand to numb the pain that may occur during the process. Since a major chunk of everyday chores is done by hands, it could get suspended for some days for the patients depending upon the severity of their wounds.

How Long After Wrist Surgery Can I Drive?

Cause of Surgery The Time Needed to Start Driving
Tendon Repair6 Weeks
Dupuytren’s Fasciectomy 5-6 Weeks
Fracture Fixation4-6 Weeks
Carpal Tunnel Release1-4 Weeks, depending on the pain

This is one of the most commonly asked questions that when can one resume driving after getting wrist surgery. The major answer to this question is basically dependent on how well the patient can handle a car. AIt was observed in a survey that people with minor wrist surgeries returned back to driving within 14-20 days of the surgery. The time extends to 6 weeks in case of fracture fixation. The movement of the hand and its fragility are the important factors to determine this duration. Pain is a primary factor to decide whether the patient is capable of driving at the time he decides to drive.

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Usually, Doctors recommend a time period of 4 to 6 weeks but it lies totally upon the discretion of the patient. If the patient is confident enough to handle the vehicle properly, without fearing any possibility of injury before the prescribed time, he/she may resume driving. There is no visible evidence that doctors in these cases possess any sort of medical liability if there is any mishappening as they usually prescribe a bare minimum period to wait before resuming the ride. The doctors cannot be sued if the patient decides to take the driving wheel in his/her hand as per convenience.

Why Does It Take That Long?

A lot of people need massage or physiotherapy after the surgery to make sure that they can carry out their daily chores properly. This therapy usually begins after 7-10 days of the surgery depending on its severity and may end up to 3-4 months. The physiotherapy makes sure that there is no defect or problem left to be fixed and the movement of the wrist is facilitated properly. However, the person can start driving even when he/she is in the middle of the therapy; subject to the condition that no pain or stiffness is felt by them.

Such a duration of 6 weeks is advised because wrist surgery does not come alone. It comes with a lot of painkillers and opioids to suppress the pain by inducing drowsiness in a person. The patient is usually required to intake these medicines for 21-30 days. Since it induces drowsiness, it could be expected by ordinary prudence that the driver may lose balance or become drowsy midway while driving, and hence, raising the chances of road accidents and nuisance.

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Since there could be tools inserted for the surgery, another reason for this tenure lies here. The tools like pin, plates, etc. support the wrist, they cannot be removed until it is made sure that the patient can make pain-free wrist movements. The wrist remains stiff even after the removal of bandages and fixtures, thus it is not advised to strain the injured area when it is stiff already. One needs to exercise hand movements before jumping on the driving seat.

Conclusion

The patients with minor surgery may resume driving within 21-25 days. However, the higher the severity of the injury, the longer would be the time taken to recover and hence, return to the driving seat. There is no fixed formula but the patient is advised to take cognizance of his/her pain and stiffness in the affected area and the effect of the painkillers in the body. Conclusively the onus lies completely on the patient to remain loyal to the surgeon’s advice regarding rest and act in the state of common prudence while making any decision.

References

  1. https://journals.lww.com/jaaos/Fulltext/2013/11000/Driving_After_Orthopaedic_Surgery.6.aspx
  2. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0040-1709189

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