After experiencing a stroke, whether it is a mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack, or TIA) or a full-blown stroke (cerebrovascular accident, or CVA), life can be complicated. The event itself was scary, and all of life’s focus shifted first to survival, and then to getting home from the hospital. Unfortunately, the challenges do not stop there. There are often deficits to overcome, such as weakness, difficulty speaking and mobility problems. This is true not only in the home but on the road as well. Things they once took for granted, like holding a steering wheel, paying attention to mirrors, or safely judging the distance to an intersection may now seem nearly impossible.
Your brain needs two main things to function: sugar and oxygen. These are carried to the brain through the bloodstream. When your brain is unable to access these nutrients, its cells quickly begin to die, and a patient can almost immediately begin to suffer impairments.
The first type of stroke is an ischemic stroke. The word “ischemic” means having an inadequate supply of blood as the result of an obstruction in the arteries. This often occurs in people with a history of atherosclerosis or cardiovascular disease and is usually associated with the narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque.
The second type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke. The word “hemorrhagic” basically means to bleed. In this form of stroke, vessels in the brain burst as the result of illness (high blood pressure, genetic disorders) or injury to the brain.
Regardless of which type of stroke a patient experiences, it can hinder one’s ability to drive a motor vehicle. For some, these challenges can be minor and quickly overcome with minimal rehab, but for others, they can be debilitating and necessitate that the patient gives up driving permanently. Many will fall somewhere in between on this spectrum.
Depending on which area of the brain is affected by the stroke, a patient may experience a variety of complications. As they relate to driving, these fall into three main areas: Cognitive impairment, physical impairment, and visual impairment.
Every driver has unique needs after a stroke. That is why we work individually with each patient to determine what their particular deficits are, and what they can do to maximize the possibility of driving again.
After a patient has suffered a stroke, we will evaluate them in several areas to evaluate their prospects of driving again. We will check the patient’s vision, assess how perceptive they are to stimuli, and measure the speed at which they react to stimuli. We will also help determine how well they are physically able to function in the different ways needed to operate a motor vehicle. We check how well they can move their joints and test their balance and reflexes. Finally, we will give them a behind-the-wheel evaluation.