Driving after Surgery

“When can I drive again?” is one of the most commonly asked questions. Returning to driving is often seen as an important step towards regaining independence after surgery or an injury. While there is no legislation about this, you need to consider a few factors. This is to ensure your safety and the safety of other road users.


Would you be able to control the vehicle in an emergency?

This is the most important question when trying to return to driving. You need to be confident that you would be able to control your vehicle in an emergency. Pain, joint stiffness, medications or any form of immobilisation (e.g. splint, sling, cast) will affect your ability to respond to an emergency. You need to have a functional range of motion of your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. As a general guide:

  • You need to have near normal function of your wrists and hands in order to grip firmly onto the steering wheel.
  • You should be able to straighten your elbows so that you can reach the steering wheel and operate other parts of the car, such as indicators, gear selector/ shifter or the handbrake.
  • You should be able to reach the top of the steering wheel.
  • You should be able to safely buckle and unbuckle the seatbelt.


    driving after orthopaedic surgery


    There a several things to consider before returning back driving

    Are you still wearing a splint, sling or have a cast?

    It is usually advised not to drive while you have any form of immobilisation. Splints, casts and slings affect your ability to hold firmly onto the steering wheel and operate other parts of the vehicle, such as indicators, gear selector/ shifter or the handbrake.

    Are you taking strong pain killers?

    Strong pain killers may have sedative effects. This will affect your judgement, concentration and reaction times. So, if you are taking any strong pain killers (Palexia, Endone, Tramadol) you should not be driving.

    Are you a commercial driver?

    Regulations around operating commercial vehicles are stricter than for private use. You will usually need to have recovered fully from your injury or surgery before returning to commercial driving. Dr Turow will advise you when that is the case.

    What Timing to Expect

    General guidelines for return to driving are listed below. Please note that your individual return to driving may vary.

    Shoulder Arthroscopy

    2 days minimum
    2 weeks or until your sling is off

    Rotator Cuff Repair

    6 weeks or until sling is off

    Shoulder Stabilisation

    6 weeks or until sling is off

    Shoulder Replacement

    6 weeks or until sling is off

    Fracture Surgery

    6 weeks
    Your wound usually takes two weeks to heal
    Early bone healing takes 6 weeks

    Carpal Tunnel Surgery

    1-2 weeks
    With open carpal tunnel surgery it may take 2-3 weeks to return to driving
    With endoscopic (keyhole) carpal tunnel surgery you will be able to return by one week

    Capacity to drive

    Before attempting to driver on public roads, try to practise driving again in a safe and controlled environment. One way to do that is to take your car to an empty car park with a friend and go through all the steps of driving. It is important to take it slowly and be safe. If you are in doubt, please do not drive. You can contact Dr Turow’s rooms for further clarification on (08) 8236 4179 or e-mail adminturow@woc.com.au. There are several standards and government guidelines available to help you with assessing your capacity to drive:

    Please use above information as a guide only. More detailed information specific to your condition and your recovery will be given in your consultation with Dr. Arthur Turow, who will also provide additional resources to supplement your discussion. For more information, please contact the rooms of Dr. Arthur Turow on (08) 8236 4179.