Author + information
- Received October 19, 1994
- Revision received February 6, 1995
- Accepted February 27, 1995
- Published online July 1, 1995.
- Anne B. Curtis, MD, FACC*,
- Jamie B. Conti, MD, FACC,
- Kelly J. Tucker, MD,
- Paul S. Kubilis, MS,
- Roberta E. Reilly, BA and
- David A. Woodard, MD
- ↵*Address for correspondence: Dr. Anne B. Curtis, Box 100277, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610.
Objectives. This study was designed to examine driving safety in patients at risk for sudden death after implantation of a cardioverter-defibrillator.
Background. Cardioverter-defibrillators are frequently implanted in patients at high risk for sudden death. Despite concern about the safety of driving in these patients, little is known about their actual motor vehicle accident rates.
Methods. Surveys were sent to all 742 physicians in the United States involved in cardioverter-defibrillator implantation and follow-up. Physicians were questioned about numbers of patients followed up, numbers of fatal and nonfatal accidents, physician recommendations to patients about driving and knowledge of state driving laws.
Results. Surveys were returned by 452 physicians (61%). A total of 30 motor vehicle accidents related to shocks from implantable defibrillators were reported by 25 physicians over a 12-year period from 1980 to 1992. Of these, nine were fatal accidents involving eight patients with a defibrillator and one passenger in a car driven by a patient. No bystanders were fatally injured. There were 21 nonfatal accidents involving 15 patients, 3 passengers and 3 bystanders. The estimated fatality rate for patients with a defibrillator, 7.5/100,000 patient-years, is significantly lower than that for the general population (18.4/100,000 patient-years, p < 0.05). The estimated injury rate, 17.6/100,000 patient-years, is also significantly lower than that for the general public (2,224/100,000 patient-years, p < 0.05). Only 10.5% (30 of 286) of all defibrillator discharges during driving resulted in accidents. Regarding physician recommendations, most physicians (58.1%) ask their patients to wait a mean (± SD) of 7.3 ± 3.4 months after implantation or a shock before driving again.
Conclusions. The motor vehicle accident rate caused by discharge from an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is low. Although restricting driving for a short period of time after implantation may be appropriate, excessive restrictions or a total ban on driving appears to be unwarranted.
- Received October 19, 1994.
- Revision received February 6, 1995.
- Accepted February 27, 1995.
- The American College of Cardiology