Stroke survivors driving too soon, finds study

More than a quarter of people who suffered an acute stroke under the age of 65 were back driving in under a month, contrary to Australian guidelines. 

Research just published in the International Journal of Stroke by The George Institute for Global Health also discovered 15 per cent of those who returned to driving too soon, were considered to be cognitively impaired.
The POISE (Psychosocial Outcomes in StokeE) study assessed 440 stroke survivors in NSW from 2008 to 2010. Key findings revealed:

  1. Those behind the wheel in less than a month were more likely to be men and the main income earner in their household.
  2. 45 per cent of the early returning drivers said they had not been advised to stop driving whilst recovering.

The authors, including The George Institute’s Maree Hackett, Richard Lindley, Stephen Jan, Qiang Li and Craig Anderson say the paper reinforces the need for an assessment to be carried out to ensure patients are fit to drive, and that advice on driving reaches all stroke survivors.

Associate Professor Hackett said: “Returning to driving after stroke is an important goal for many stroke survivors and can be associated with return to previous activity levels, independence, and for many, the ability to return to paid work. This is why discussions between clinicians and stroke survivors about not returning to driving can be very difficult. It is important that health care professionals are confident when discussing this sensitive topic, so they are able to explain all the implications of returning to driving against advice, and that this information is reinforced for stroke survivors by all health care professionals.”

Guidelines by the Australia’s National Stroke Foundation and Austroads recommend people cease driving for at least one month after acute stroke.

Acute stroke rates rose by 25 per cent between 1990 and 2000 in those aged between 20 and 64 and now accounts for one third of the global burden of the disease.

Read the study paper.