September 8, 2006

Study shows 80 per cent of leg amputee patients quickly return to driving

Toronto, Ontario – A new study by researchers at Toronto’s West Park Healthcare Centre shows that most patients who lose a leg return to driving within four months of amputation. The research, published in the September issue of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, is the first of its kind and involved 123 outpatients at West Park’s amputee and prosthetics clinic.

“This gives us some scientific information to assist in decision-making regarding a return to the road,” says Dr. Michael Devlin, senior author of the study and a physiatrist at the Centre.

The study showed that 80.5 per cent of participants were able to return to driving an average of 3.8 months after the amputation. Of the nearly 20 per cent who didn’t return, most cited a preference for public transit, lack of confidence or fear of driving. Of those who returned to driving after losing a right leg or foot, 40 per cent required vehicle modifications, such as hand controls or left-sided gas pedals. The rest learned to control the pedals using the left foot, the right prosthesis or a combination of the two.

Little research has been done regarding driving safety and amputation, although Canadian medical guidelines state that people with amputation below the knee can usually drive any class of motor vehicle. Nineteen of the 20 study participants required to take a formal driving test passed successfully. In 2004-2005, nearly 2,400 people had foot or leg amputations in Ontario, mainly due to diabetes.

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