Driving After Your Surgical Procedure

person's hands on the steering wheel driving

As part of your postoperative instructions, we’ll include the activities you can and can’t perform after any abdominal surgical procedure. One such limitation is driving. For most abdominal surgery patients, driving will not be possible several days after surgery. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. First, in the immediate recovery period after the surgical procedure, patients will still be under anesthesia and will not have the capacity to drive themselves home. This makes it very important to have a friend or a loved one who can pick you up from the surgery center, take you home, and get settled.
  2. Second, you will experience abdominal pain from the incisions and the procedure for several days after surgery. In the first few days post-op, this pain will likely preclude you from making an emergency stop by pressing the brake firmly. As such, you will be somewhat impaired until the discomfort subsides.
  3. Lastly, some patients will require narcotic medication to manage pain after the procedure. Most patients will not require narcotic medication beyond the first couple of days after surgery, but while taking it, they most certainly cannot drive. Most patients can safely drive once the drug has been flushed from their system, which takes about 48 hours from the last dosage.

Without being said, it is essential to remember that your postoperative instructions are the best guide to proper recovery after the procedure. Please only use the above as a guide; your surgeon’s instructions must be followed closely.

A General Note on Activity

For most abdominal surgical procedures, patients should prioritize movement and activity within their physical bounds after surgery. Most surgeries are performed with minimally invasive technology, and significant movement restrictions are not often prescribed. For procedures such as bariatric surgery and hernia surgery, patients must minimize the amount of intra-abdominal pressure in the early part of recovery, so lifting and performing strenuous activities that involve the core is discouraged. Other procedures, like gallbladder removal, have even fewer restrictions. Ultimately, the restrictions on movement will depend on the specific procedure but walking daily is almost always encouraged to help improve recovery.

The Bottom Line

You will avoid driving for several days after abdominal surgery. However, your surgeon will guide you on when you should be able to perform this and other limited activities. We strive to make your procedure as safe and effective as possible, and following your postoperative plan closely is the best way to ensure that. In the meantime, if you require any abdominal surgery, including gallbladder, hernia, or bariatric surgery, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with either Dr. Huguet or Dr. Peterson.