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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 02:08 GMT 03:08 UK
Patients warned over driving after surgery
Surgeons
Surgeons give varying advice to patients on driving
Patients who undergo surgery to repair a groin hernia may be getting potentially dangerous advice from doctors on when they can start to drive again.

A study has found the doctors across the UK give varying advice to patients on when they can get behind the wheel of a car.

Some doctors tell patients they can drive the on same day that they have surgery while others advise individuals to wait at least two months.

However, previous studies have shown that patients who have undergone this surgery may be unable to apply their brakes in the event of an emergency, putting themselves and others at risk.

The authors of the study, which is published in the British Medical Journal, have called for national guidelines to help doctors to give the correct advice.

'Common sense'

A survey of 200 consultant general surgeons and managers from 30 day surgery units identified the differences.

The most common advice was that patients should wait two weeks after surgery to remove a hernia in the groin before driving. Almost 40 consultants gave this advice.

Just 16 surgeons said their advice was based on medical evidence or research. However, the advice they gave also varied.

Some 85 doctors said their advice was based on common sense and traditional practice.

'Guidelines needed'

The study also found that many day surgery units failed to give patients written advice on when the could start driving again.

Mr Wael Ismail, a consultant surgeon who works at Harold Wood Hospital in Essex and author of the study, said guidelines were needed.

He said any advice given by surgeons should take into account whether patients are taking pain killers or could still be experiencing the effects of local anaesthetic.

"My personal view after carrying out this research is that patients should wait at least five days before driving."

Mr Ismail said previous studies had shown that these patients were unable to stop their car in an emergency after surgery.

Braking 'risk'

"A previous study simulated the effects of an emergency stop. It measured the pressure that a patient would need to exert in an emergency stop.

"It found that in many cases they could not. They suggested that patients would be able to stop their cars in an emergency for four or five days after the surgery."

A hernia occurs when part of the tissue lining the stomach breaks through a weakened area of the abdominal wall.

It can be extremely painful and can sometimes be dangerous if a piece of intestine becomes trapped.

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