General anesthesia does not impair simulator driving skills in volunteers in the immediate recovery period — a pilot study

  • David R. Sinclair
  • Frances Chung
  • Alison Smiley
General Anesthesia



The current recommendations to refrain from driving for 24 hr after general anesthesia (GA) lack evidence. Our objective was to measure impairment of driving performance at various time intervals after anesthesia using driving impairment at different blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) as a gold standard for comparison.


Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Acrossover design, within subject comparison was used. Twelve volunteers were randomized to three treatments: GA, alcohol, and no drug. Psychomotor recovery was assessed by Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and Trieger Dot Test (TDT). On the anesthetic day, GA was induced with propofol 2.5 mgℐg−1 and fentanyl l μg·kg−1 and maintained with N2O-O2 50:50 and approximately one minimum alveolar concentration of desflurane by spontaneous ventilation for 30 min. Driving simulator test runs occurred at two, three, four, and 24 hr postanesthesia. On the alcohol treatment day, a vodka and orange juice beverage was administered to reach the legal limit for BAC in the province of Ontario, Canada (BAC 0.08%). On the control day, no drug was given. Driving simulator test runs corresponded to the same time of day as the postanesthetic test runs. Two-way analysis of variance for dependent samples (ANOVA) was performed using the SAS program. P values of less than 0.05 were considered significant.


There was no significant difference in postanesthetic driving skills at two, three, and four hours postanesthesia, and the corresponding control sessions. There was no significant difference among the three sessions with respect to pen and paper tests of psychomotor performance. Performance during the alcohol session differed significantly from that during the control and postanesthetic sessions.


Certain driving skills return by two hours after one half hour of GA of propofol, desflurane, and fentanyl in a group of young volunteers.


Desflurane Speed Limit Blood Alcohol Concentration Control Session Digit Symbol Substitution Test 
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L’anesthésie générale n’altère pas les habiletés de conduite sur simulateur chez des volontaires en récupération immédiate — une étude pilote



La recommandation courante restreignant la conduite pendant 24 h après une anesthésie générale (AG) manque de preuve. Notre objectif était de mesurer l’altération des habiletés de conduite à différents intervalles de temps après l’anesthésie en utilisant la détérioration de la conduite selon divers taux d’alcoolémie comme référence.


Nous avons obtenu l’approbation du Comité d’examen de l’établissement. Un devis croisé avec comparaison intra-sujets a été utilisé. Douze volontaires ont reçu trois traitements au hasard: AG, alcool et absence de médicament. La récupération psychomotrice a été évaluée par le test de substitution de codes (TSC) et le Trieger Dot Test (TDT). Le jour de l’anesthésie, l’AG a été induite avec 2,5 mg·kg−1 de propofol et I μ·kg−1 de fentanyl et maintenue avec un mélange à 50 % de N2O-O2 et environ une CAM de desflurane par ventilation spontanée pendant 30 min. La série de tests de simulation de conduite a eu lieu deux, trois, quatre et 24 h après l’anesthésie. Le jour où on a donné l’alcool, une boisson faite de vodka et de jus d’orange a permis d’atteindre le taux d’alcoolémie limite accepté en Ontario, Canada (0,08 %). Le jour témoin, aucun médicament n’a été administré. La série de tests de simulation de conduite s’est faite aux mêmes intervalles de temps que la série réalisée le jour de l’anesthésie. Une analyse de variance à deux facteurs pour variables dépendantes (ANOVA) a été réalisée avec l’usage du programme SAS. Les valeurs de P de moins de 0,05 ont été considérées significatives.


II n’y a pas eu de différence significative entre les habiletés postanesthésiques testées à deux, trois et quatre heures après l’anesthésie et pendant les sessions témoins correspondantes. II n’y a pas eu de différence significative entre les trois sessions quant à la performance psychomotrice aux tests d’écriture. La performance pendant la session sous alcool a présenté une différence significative par rapport aux deux autres sessions.


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Copyright information

© Canadian Anesthesiologists 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Sinclair
    • 1
  • Frances Chung
    • 2
  • Alison Smiley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of FloridaJacksonvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnesthesiaToronto Western HospitalTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Human Factors North Inc.TorontoCanada

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