, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 2259-2264

Driving reaction time before and after surgery for lumbar disc herniation in patients with radiculopathy

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Abstract

Purpose

Although patients scheduled to undergo lumbar disc surgery often ask when they are allowed to drive a motor vehicle again, there are no published recommendations on this subject.

Methods

We conducted a prospective study in 46 consecutive patients (mean age 48.9 years) to determine driving reaction time (DRT) before and after surgery in patients with lumbar disc herniation. Of the patients 23 had left-side radiculopathy and 23 right-side radiculopathy. Driving reaction time as well as back and leg pain were evaluated preoperatively, on the day of discharge from hospital and at the 5-week follow-up examination (FU). 31 healthy subjects were tested as controls.

Results

Significant improvement in DRT was seen for both patient samples (p < 0.05). For patients with a right-side radiculopathy preoperative DRT was 664 ms (median, IQR: 241), which was reduced to 605 ms (median, IQR: 189) immediately postoperatively and to 593 ms (median, IQR: 115) at FU. For patients with a left-side radiculopathy DRT was 675 ms (median, IQR: 247) preoperatively, 638 ms (median, IQR: 242) postoperatively and 619 ms (median, IQR: 162) at FU. Pain was moderately correlated to DRT. Control subjects had a driving reaction time of 487 (median, IQR: 116), which differed significantly from patients at all three testing times (p < 0.001).

Conclusion

Our data indicate a positive effect of the surgery on driving ability. Therefore, we would suggest that for both patient samples it is safe to continue driving after hospital discharge. However, patients have to be informed about increased DRT caused by radiculopathy already before surgery.

M. Thaler and R. Lechner have contributed equally to this work.