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Upper Extremity Immobilization and Driving

Limitations and Liability

Chong, Paul Y. MD; Golinvaux, Nicholas S. MD; Lee, Donald H. MD

JAAOS - Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: July 15, 2019 - Volume 27 - Issue 14 - p e641–e647
doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-18-00435
Review Article

Orthopaedic injuries of the upper extremity remain common, often requiring prolonged immobilization after surgical or nonsurgical management. Upper extremity immobilization often has a profound effect on a patient's daily life, including one's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Current literature on the safety of driving while immobilized is varied, although above-elbow immobilization of the upper extremity is generally thought to present a particular hazard to safe driving. Unfortunately, as common as this situation is, currently little to no guidance exists for patients, physicians, or lawmakers with regard to deciding whether a patient is safe to return to driving with upper extremity immobilization. Similar discord exists with the issue of patient and physician liability in such cases. In this review, we seek to present both historical precedent and a contemporary update of this complex, though a frequently encountered situation.

From the Family Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Arlington, TX (Dr. Chong), and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN (Dr. Golinvaux and Dr. Lee).

Dr. Chong or an immediate family member has stock or stock options held in Wheaton Brace Co. Dr. Lee or an immediate family member has received IP royalties from, is a member of a speakers' bureau or has made paid presentations on behalf of, and serves as a paid consultant to Zimmer Biomet, and serves as a board member, owner, officer, or committee member of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Association, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, and Association of Bone and joint Surgeons. Neither Dr. Golinvaux nor any immediate family member has received anything of value from or has stock or stock options held in a commercial company or institution related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

© 2019 by American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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