A new study, conducted by Indian-origin boffin, has shown that more than half of patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) don't get any counseling on their ability to drive after angioplasty.
This could be putting their lives at risk.
Dr. Ravi Bajaj told the 2009 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Edmonton this week that after a patient is sent home from hospital following a "cardiac event," such as angina or chest pain from reduced blood flow to the heart, there is always the risk they could have another serious cardiac event.
"That is why patients are advised not to operate a motor vehicle during the time when risks of an event are high," Dr. Bajaj explained in a statement released by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which is co-hosting the Cardiovascular Congress.
In his study, Dr. Bajaj looked at patients who had undergone angioplasty, which is a non-surgical procedure that uses a tiny balloon to open up clogged blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by cholesterol and plaque build-up.
His team then asked the patients what kind of advice they were given as they were discharged from hospital following the procedure.
They found that 57 per cent of patients did not receive any counseling about driving. The remaining 43 per cent had varying advice from their doctors, most of which was inconsistent with the 2003 guidelines released by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS).
"Depending on a patient's condition, driving restrictions after hospitalization range from 48 hours to a month. Yet we found that less than half of cardiac patients received any instructions about driving at all," Bajaj reported.
Of the 43 per cent of the patients who reported having a discussion with their doctor about driving after hospital discharge, driving restrictions were prescribed for 48 hours in 40 per cent of participants, one week for 15 per cent, and one month for 35 per cent.
Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson says patients need to know that the guidelines are not meant to be a red light to driving.
"It's a yellow light precaution; not only for the safety of the patient but for all Canadians on the road. The majority of patients are advised not to drive for a short two-day period," Abramson said.
Bajaj says he doesn't know why patients get such differing advice.
"Physicians may be concerned that if they do take away a patient's ability to drive, then the patient gets the idea that the doctor isn't acting in their best interest and later the patient may withhold information so their driving privileges won't be revoked. As well, withdrawing and reinstating a license can be a quite cumbersome administrative task for both doctor and patient," Bajaj said.
He says patients need to be better educated as to why they're begin advised not to drive for a couple of days, explaining to patients that it is in their best interest not to drive because of health safety issues.
His next step is to expand the study to look at whether patients who receive the right counseling actually follow it.