It’s a fair question: For how long should you avoid driving after hitting your head, even though the CT scan is normal and you have no symptoms?
You hit your head and that day, get a CT scan to see if there’s any sign of subdural hematoma. The CT scan is normal.
However, you also know that a normal CT scan the day of head trauma, and even 24 hours later, doesn’t guarantee you can’t develop a slow brain bleed (chronic subdural hematoma) over the next few months…causing disturbing neurological symptoms.
Some of the symptoms that a chronic subdural hematoma can cause are sudden and profound weakness of one or both legs or arms; a seizure; cognitive impairment; and a searing headache.
In fact, a symptom from chronic subdural hematoma can mimic that of stroke or transient ischemic attack. Imagine driving while a symptom (or two) suddenly strikes.
Could you control the car while your brain is bleeding?
You may not even KNOW you’re having a symptom, and thus, begin losing control of the car and not even know it!
This begs the question:
For how long should a person (particularly elderly) avoid driving even if their CT scan (and next-day follow-up CT scan) is normal, and they are sent home with no symptoms?
“It depends on severity of initial presentation,” says Ivan Mikolaenko, MD, a board certified neurologist of 20+ years based in New York with subspecialty certification in neurocritical care.
“I usually recommend to take a rest and don’t drive until all symptoms are gone, and I usually recommend to repeat CT scan in 3-4 weeks after head injury in patients older than 60 years.
“After that, given normal exam and normal imaging, patient can go back to driving.”
In other words, no symptoms at initial presentation in ER, and with a normal CT scan, mean that the patient is free to drive.
However, the patient should never drive TO the ER after hitting their head, since at that point, no diagnosis has been made.
You should always have someone drive you to the ER even if you “feel fine.”
Conditions treated by Dr. Mikolaenko in the intensive care setting include strokes, ruptured aneurysms, trauma-related brain and spinal cord injuries, seizures and brain swelling, infections and tumors.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.