How Soon Can I Drive After Limb Lengthening Surgery?
Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on October 12, 2021
Undergoing limb-lengthening surgery can be eerie when considering the aspects of one’s life that could be limited or otherwise affected during the post-surgery recovery process.
In an effort to get back to their daily lives, many patients wonder whether or not limb-lengthening surgery will affect their ability to operate a vehicle shortly after surgery.
Luckily, driving after limb lengthening is possible once certain requirements are met, and the doctor gives full approval. This timeframe can range from 1-3 months post-surgery, but a few factors are at play. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss what requirements must be met, other factors involved, and some vehicular aspects to consider.
Can I Drive Right Before & After Leg-Lengthening Surgery?
Patients must understand that they will not be able to drive themselves for a minimum of weeks after surgery since they will be under the influence of prescribed narcotics. It is imperative that patients do not drive if they are taking any prescriptions since they can heavily impair the ability to operate a vehicle safely.
However, patients may drive themselves to the hospital before surgery if they trust someone to transport their car post-surgery. It’s essential to plan ahead to be sure there’s transportation from the hospital to the hotel and so on.
Another possible factor in addition to narcotics is that patients need to be sure they can bear weight on their legs before driving a vehicle. Of course, weight-bearing restrictions will be prescribed by the surgeon for the fixation device used. Again, always follow doctors’ orders since the last thing you want is a broken nail or malunion.
Driving After Limb Lengthening: Timeline & Considerations
The reality is that it may take some time to drive comfortably and safely since numerous factors can influence how long it can take.
For example, the amount and segment a patient lengthens can significantly impact how long they take narcotics. In addition, the methods or devices used can also play a massive role in how quickly one heals, can stop taking pharmaceuticals, and can get behind the wheel again.
However, for the sake of simplicity, patients can expect to begin driving again within 1-3 months once the surgery is done and, more importantly, once they have approval from their surgeon. Of course, it can take longer than this as well, but we’ll get to some of those reasons below.
For non-weight-bearing nails or for people who experience more pain than others, it could be even longer.
Factors to Consider When It Comes to Driving After Height Surgery
As stated above, several factors may affect if a person can get back on the road and how long they may have to wait before doing so. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Internal Vs. External Fixation
One of these factors is whether or not they are using an internal or external fixation device.
In scenarios where internal fixation is used, such as when using the PRECICE Limb-Lengthening system, a patient will begin the distraction phase shortly after surgery. During which the PRECICE nail will slowly lengthen the bone over the span of several months. For the duration of this phase, the previously mentioned weight-bearing precautions will be in place, which would prevent the patient from driving.
Driving After Unilateral, Bilateral, or Quadrilateral
Another factor that may impact driving post height surgery is whether the patient underwent unilateral, bilateral, or quadrilateral surgery. Unilateral surgery is performed on either the femur or tibia of one leg, bilateral is one segment (femur or tibias) lengthened on both legs, and quadrilateral means patients are lengthening both tibias and femurs on both legs simultaneously.
After bilateral and quadrilateral surgery, both of the patient’s legs will be affected, so driving is off the table for some time.
However, only one leg is affected after unilateral surgery, so driving and other everyday activities become more achievable so long as the patient doesn’t need drugs for pain management and, again, has the doctor’s approval.
Vehicle Type: Automatic, Manual, SUV, Compact Etc.
Lastly, the size of the vehicle and whether or not the car has an automatic transmission may play a role in driving.
Obviously, it will be difficult for someone to independently get in and out of a compact or sports car that’s low to the ground. This is especially true when this same person just had surgery to break both of their legs and is taller than before. An SUV or larger vehicle is a great option when driving is a possibility again.
A vehicle with a manual transmission may also prove challenging to drive with external fixators, non-weight-bearing internal nails, or those who had either bilateral or quadrilateral surgery. In this case, an automatic transmission may be preferred for the first few times driving again.
In conclusion, after height surgery each person will be able to operate a vehicle once their doctor approves, and it’s dependent on several factors. Patients should expect to forgo driving for 1-3 months after the initial surgery and plan accordingly.
Once again, always follow the doctor’s orders so you do not put yourself, or anyone else at risk.
Distraction phase. Paley Orthopedic & Spine Institute. (2018, March 28). Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://paleyinstitute.org/centers-of-excellence/stature-lengthening/the-paley-method/distraction-phase/#/.