Driving after mitral valve replacement - British Heart Fou...

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Driving after mitral valve replacement

Jocastina profile image

Hello, I had my mitral valve replaced 5 weeks ago, and am trying to work out when I can drive. I think, but I can't quite remember, that before surgery they said 6 weeks after surgery, but my cardiac rehab nurse said on Monday that 4 weeks is ok, as long as I feel alright. Just phoned the car insurance to ask and they weren't interested at all. So I just did online chat with DVLA and they said they don't need to be informed of valve replacements and that I should just follow doctor's advice. So vague! Is anyone able to shed any light on this or point me in the direction of correct and clear information? Thank you very much!

30 Replies

As some one who has had to surrender their licence following heart surgery - I can say that it depends on how you feel. If you are feeling OK, and your cognition is OK, then you are fit to drive.

I don't feel OK to drive, and I know I'm not OK to drive - that's just how things panned out for me. I would imagine I'm one of the few, if any others at all, that had to surrender their licence last year at the hospital I was treated at.

I wish you well with your driving

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to Brand

Thank you very much for your reply. I'm sorry that you've had to stop driving. I wish you all the best.

MichaelJH profile image
MichaelJHHeart Star

Hello... Following bypass or heart valve surgery you have to stop driving for a minimum of four weeks and only resume with the consent of your GP or cardiologist. Other medical staff cannot give you permission.

Did you get a discharge letter after your surgery? One should have gone to your GP, so you could ask them.

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to RufusScamp

Yes I did get a letter, but it doesn't say anything about driving. But I'm going to wait a bit longer. Thank you.

Hi Jocastina,

Hope you're keeping well. As other have said, 4 weeks is the legal minimum but I was advised to wait until post op checks were completed. It's largely down to you but I did read to ensure that you feel you can comfortably perform an emergency stop and perhaps take someone with you the first time. Personally, at 6 weeks post op now (post op appointment is scheduled for the end of the month) I actually don't feel comfortable with the arm movements needed and force required so I will at least hang on until my appointment.

Do what feels right for you, be safe

Best wishes

A

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to Alessa_

Hi Alessa! I hope you're recovering well too. I'm going to wait until my appointment on 27/7 too. Thank you.

Alessa_ profile image
Alessa_ in reply to Jocastina

Thank you, I'm doing okay. I'm glad you've found a conclusion that works for you, keep looking after yourself and I hope the appointment goes well 😊

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to Alessa_

Thank you, you too!

MichaelJH profile image
MichaelJHHeart Star

Just a note for anyone reading this with a HGV or PSV licence. If you have had a bypass or valvar surgery you need to tell the DVLA and fill in form VOCH1. You have to stop driving for a minimum of three months and may have to undergo a medical which may include a stress ECG.

My husband had mitral and tricuspid valve replacement a year ago and his surgeon informed him not to drive for 8 weeks. He was also told to place a folded towel in a pillowcase between the seat belt and chest for a further 4 weeks, not only for comfort but for any impact that may occur. I don’t know if anyone else has ever been given that advice, my husband is 70 years old so perhaps the advice varies with age. However, I think it is also about how you feel about taking up driving too as everyone recovers at different rates and you must feel both comfortable and confident. My husband had terrible problems with sleeping at night for some weeks so even from that point of view he wouldn’t have been good to drive as he was so tired.

Best wishes with your recovery.

The sleeping is a really good point, thank you - I'm not sleeping well either, yet...

I hope that sleep improves soon, I think this was one of more difficult things my husband found about his recovery. Wishing you well.

Thank you so much

Brand profile image
Brand in reply to Doodlebug63

Folded towel and pillow case were standard issues at my hospital. TBH, I think the patients gave each other more info and advice than the clinicians did. But then, this was 2020, and we all know how that year will be remembered. I'm grateful that they found time to operate on me at all!

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to Brand

Me too, I’m so glad I’ve actually had mine done. I really feel for anyone on waiting lists now.

Like Doodlebug63 I used a thin cushion between me and the seat belt just in case of emergency stop at 4 weeks

I asked same question in hospital, reply was 6 weeks after I have been seen by cardiologist for check up and I feel OK to drive, I was told I didn't need to inform dvla.

It's less about what you've had done to your heart, but more about the wound and bone healing. The concern is about what damage the seat belt would cause even in a minor accident. I was very keen to drive after my op but held off for about 8 weeks, I did pester the hospital for permission to drive but didn't get it. If you are advised not to drive by the cardiologist or GP, your insurance would be invalid if you did drive.

Absolutely spot on, this is more about your wound and sternum healing (about 12 weeks). With the lack of upper exercise and restricted movement whilst these areas recover and heal your upper body will become less flexible. I tried after 8 weeks with full approvals, made it about 300 yards turned round and back home. Left it another 4 weeks and tried again.

Thank you - I didn't have a sternotomy but I have definitely lost upper body strength. I agree, best to wait until it feels right.

Thank you very much everyone for all your replies. I have now got confirmation from the GP that it's fine after 4 weeks, and DVLA are happy with that - their website is very unclear because MVR isn't in their list of conditions, which I think is why our insurance company didn't want to know. I didn't have a sternotomy - I had it done via the right ribs, but I have definitely lost upper body strength and am not sleeping well, so I agree with those who said it's best to wait until I'm a bit stronger and less tired. I have my surgeon follow up appt on 27/7 so will wait at least until then and see what he says. Thank you everyone!

Before I drove I spoke to the DVLA because, as you said, MVR not on the list. They confirmed verbally and in writing that I was good to go when the medical OK was given. Confirmed with the car insurance bods their side of things. I told them to put a note on file just in case.Good luck with your recovery.

Hi there, I had my mitral valve repaired and was told I could drive within 6 weeks so stuck to that :) Have a speedy recovery x

Hi Heartie

DVLA are correct. The insurance companies complicate things. There is no legal reason for you to tell the DVLA .

I made the mistake of telling them about my AVR as my insurance company insisted that I did. Turns out that heat valve repair is not a condition that needs reporting as it’s a repair and not a heart disease.

My surgeon said don’t drive for six weeks. I didn’t as I couldn’t!!

Good advice but it’s just that. - advice.

Good luck with your recovery and I hope you get behind the wheel soon

❤️Maisie❤️

Thank you!

Hello Jocastina good to hear of your progress, well deserved after all those delays! Hope your daughter is enjoying having you safely home. I have been told not to drive before 6 weeks. A lot depends on how well you feel apparently and how well your sternum has healed. I know I will be keen to get back, but like everything else it’s small steps….I have finally got a date for my op: August 31st, so I am doing some serious planning! Any tips appreciated. I understand you are encouraged to get dressed while in hospital which came as a surprise, when were you allowed to have a shower, don’t suppose you could wash your hair? Did you bother with a bra, sounds uncomfortable.

Sorry, bombarding you with questions, the main thing is it’s so good to hear that you’re on the road to your new life!

Best wishes. Sue 🙏❤️😊

Jamie1995 profile image
Jamie1995 in reply to Jamie1995

PS There was I going on about sternotomies, forgot that yours was MI! Sx

Jocastina profile image
Jocastina in reply to Jamie1995

Hi Sue, great that have a date! My tips would be to pack an extra long phone charger, take an iPad or some device that you can watch TV on and do video calls with family. I found the hospital food awful but not sure what you can do about that! Take some snacks and if possible get a visitor to bring something nice and fresh. It depends on the hospital policy but I was allowed one named visitor the whole time I was there, so my husband could visit but not my daughters. I was there for 8 nights including the night before surgery. 4 nights on ICU and 4 nights on the cardiac ward. In ICU I wore the hospital gown. On the ward I wore some short sleeved short pyjamas with buttons down the front because they were a bit more dignified than the gown! And the button fronts make it easier for all the ECGs and people checking the scar that you will have. I didn’t bother with a bra at all and it didn’t matter - everyone was very sensitive and respectful when checking things. In fact I didn’t wear one until this week because my incision scar is under my left breast and I didn’t want a bra to rub on it. I didn’t have a shower in hospital - just flannel washes. They wash you in ICU. My hair was really greasy when I got home, but it wasn’t my main concern! I didn’t get dressed in hospital either until the day I left. I also took with me a hand held electric fan (with USB charger) which was so helpful because it was so hot that week and the hospital aircon was broken! Do all the breathing exercises as soon as you can - it really helps. Do ask if you think of anything else. Good luck!

Jamie1995 profile image
Jamie1995 in reply to Jocastina

Hello Jocastina, thanks a lot for all your tips and great to hear about the whole experience. You were in the ICU for a long time, hope it wasn’t serious. It must be wonderful to be 5 weeks post op and hopefully settling back into a routine. It’s so good to have a date, everything feels more focused and I’m more motivated, lots to do, rather like before having a baby, (56 years ago!).

Not sure where you live but I guess you will be having some high temperatures, I’m waking very early so crack on while it’s cool and then have a siesta . I can sleep for hours, hopefully that will come to an end after the op.

Thanks again and all the best. Sue x

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