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Background: Cardiovascular diseases and their complications are a principal cause for morbidity and mortality worldwide. There is an increase among the elderly population undergoing open heart surgery with a valid driving license. There are no guidelines and regulations regarding when is it safe to return driving following open heart surgery.
The aim of this study was to test the ability of patients post open heart surgery in order to determine the optimal time interval after which driving will be considered as safe.
Methods: Patients following heart surgery, completed a test battery at either two week (N=50) or three months (N=90). Study participants, filled out questionnaires and completed a driving simulation. Simulation score was calculated according to the severity of the number of traffic violations normalized to participants’ age.
Results: Average age of study participants was 63.94 (SD=9.58) years. Three months post-surgery, patients presented significant improvement in the ability to carry out physical activities (p<0.001), were in an improved emotional state (p<0.05), and displayed less pain (p<0.001). Regarding their driving ability patients exhibited improved handling of vehicle controls (p=0.01) and safer driving (p<0.05), compared to two weeks postsurgery.
Conclusion: Our findings show for the first time that it is safer to return to driving after three months and not after two weeks. We suggest that Medical guidelines for post open heart surgery should include a recommendation of returning to drive only after three months. Future randomized trials should be conducted in order to confirm the results of this study.