When may patients operate a motor vehicle after receiving a general anesthetic?
Current recommendations are to advise patients to refrain from operating heavy machinery including driving a car for approximately 24–48 hours after the administra-tion of either a general anesthetic or intravenous sedation. While a patient may appear to himself or herself and to others to be completely recovered, subtle psychomotor disturbances and cognitive deficiencies may persist in the postoperative period. Important decision-making, as well as activities requiring fine motor coordination, should be postponed until after the first postoperative day. Despite admonitions to the contrary, postoperative patient surveys have revealed that some patients drive their automobiles within 24 hours after surgery, and some may even drive home from the facility.
As a result of central nervous system derangements or the surgery itself, patients may experience minor slips or even major falls after discharge. Some of these events may be related to confusion or subtle alterations in mental state. Others may be due to dizziness or pain. It is hoped that anesthetic agents of the future will be free of the prolonged and potentially hazardous central nervous system dysfunc-tion seen with currently available drugs.