There is no clear consensus on when patients with surgically treated right ankle fractures can return to car driving, or how best to assess their fitness to drive. Through a rigorous driving assessment program consisting of both off-road and on-road tests, we aim to determine if these patients are able to pass a standard driving test, even before weight bearing has been initiated.
A prospective grant-funded (Supported by AOTrauma Asia Pacific Ref: AOTAP12-17) clinical study was conducted. Patients aged 25-65 years who underwent surgery for right ankle fractures and held a valid motorcar driving license were recruited in a single institution from 2013 to 2015. The surgeon and a specialist occupational therapist assessed the patients at 2, 6 and 12 weeks post-surgery. A Short Musculoskeletal Functional Assessment (SMFA) Questionnaire was administered and the brake reaction time was measured using a driving simulator. Patients who met the minimal criteria were then subjected to a full on-road driving test in a real-world environment with a driving instructor. A follow-up telephone questionnaire was administered at least 6 months after return to driving to determine if patients had returned to driving safely.
A total of 23 patients (8 females, 15 males) were recruited. The mean age was 42.8 (± 12.9) years. There was a significant improvement in the SMFA (p < 0.05) and braking time (p < 0.05) at 6 and 12 weeks post-surgery. Nearly all (91%) patients passed the on-road driving test at 6 weeks, before their fractures had healed or weight bearing was initiated. The questionnaire administered at least 6 months after return to driving revealed that all patients had returned to regular driving safely.
We conclude that patients with isolated, surgically treated right ankle fractures can successfully pass a standard driving test at 6 weeks post-surgery, even before weight bearing has been initiated. We also showed that the ability to drive correlates with improvements in the SMFA scores and braking times.
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