“What About Truck Driving After Heart Surgery?” Asks Ken

Ken just wrote me about physical limitations following heart surgery – specifically truck driving after heart surgery. In his email, Ken writes, “I am a truck driver. Will I be able to drive big rigs or not? They are going to replace my aortic heart valve. Thanks Ken!”

Truck Driving And Heart Surgery

So you know, since my aortic valve replacement, I have completely recovered. That said, I have done every physical activity that I enjoyed prior to surgery. That includes Scuba Diving, running, swimming, hiking, biking – the list could go on. My surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes, did not put any physical limitations on me following my Ross Procedure. (Although Doctor Starnes did suggest that I stay away from lifting heavy weights so as to avoid strain on the valve.)

As for truck driving after heart surgery, I don’t see why you would prevented from getting behind the wheel of your rig following surgery. However, I would suggest that you play it safe not sorry. So, please ask your surgeon and cardiologist as to (i) whether or not truck driving after heart surgery should be avoided post-op and (ii) how long after your surgery can you drive a larger vehicle.

10-4 Good Buddy?

Keep on truckin!

Whoops. I meant keep on tickin… too! 🙂

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

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  • Spike Spriesterbach

    A lot will depend on the type of surgery. If the procedure is minimally invasive, I have no experience to comment except I have read 3-6 weeks for a return to work. If it is the regular “crack open the chest” surgery, based on my experience, I would say 3-4 months and even then the trips might not be the extended drive time that many drivers work. Your body and brain will tell you but expect 3 – 4 months to be reasonable

  • Since my aorta valve replacement operation 6 months ago I have made it a personal crusade to tell all potential patients about anxiety attacks after the operation–very few people talk about them but at Mended Hearts and talking to other survivors I have found many had dibilitating anxiety attacks like I did for a couple of months having never had them before the operation–this certainly would handicap a truck driver so be aware that you could have them.

  • Adrian Bishop

    Ken, good question. I did not drive for 8 weeks after surgery, but since then have had no issues. I do not drive a big rig, but do have both standards and automatics to move around. On vacation I had a heavy duty pick-up on back roads and that did get tiring after 4-6 hrs at the wheel. Your full recovery is going to take a little longer than the docs tell you, and you will find yourself tiring more easily. I would work on restoring and maintaining my total fitness, and start back with shorter days (if at all possible). Keep as much load as possible OFF your extended arms (no leaning). I think you can do it, but work up to it gradually.

    Adrian B, St Thomas USVI

  • Lisa

    I am an ER nurse and had a mitral valve repair 6 weeks ago through a standard sternotomy. I have been able to drive my standard transmission car for a couple of weeks now, but can only tolerate short drives. I am looking at returning to work in a couple of weeks with light duty work and short shifts to start. You will definitely need some time to work up to it. Best of luck to you!

  • Randy Duncan

    Ken, I think your best advice is to pose the question to your doctors. I, too, am about to undergo aortic valve replacement and like you, I have many questions and concerns. I used to drive trucks cross country, worked for Schneider and then M.S. Carriers. From your photo it appears you are either an independent or contract driver. If that is the case, I don’t know how the loading/unloading works, but in my own experience not only did we drive the trucks but often we had to unload them. That would be one aspect to be sure to mention to the doctor, if you do unload occasionally. I wish you all the best.

    Randy

  • Donald Henry

    I had the minimally invasive aorta valve replacement ( bovine pericardial) in Feb 2000 at the age of 55. Three weeks post op I went to a car dealership and test drove a 6 spped manual corvette and purchased it, which wasn’t the smartest decision. I did experience some discomfort shifting gears, but within 6 weeeks I was very comfortavle driving. The doctors will not want you to drive until your sterum is completely healed, because if you get into an accident you could easily be seriously injured if your chest would made contact with the steering wheel in a collision.
    You should have no problem in resuming your career as a driver of the big rigs; jsut wait until you are completely healed.

    Don

  • Sarah in McKinney, Texas

    Ken,
    I am a mother of two and needed to go back to driving them around as soon as possible, so I began driving at two weeks after aortic valve replacement surgery. I knew I needed to be extra cautious since my sternum was not fully healed. One of the biggest problems was the discomfort of the seat belt across the sternum incision. It was really irritating. And I found I was uncomfortable sitting in the driving position for any length of time (over 45 minutes) without getting up and moving. My whole upper body would just ache. After about 4-6 weeks all of this went away, and I was able to take a lengthy car trip with no problems. Good luck on your surgery!

  • Becca Allison

    Ken,
    I am a female truck driver. I had my aortic valve surgery July 22nd of 2008. My surgeon kept me off the road for 10 weeks, because he said the sternum was still healing. I was driving a car after 4 weeks. The biggest problem was a pain in the sternum area when I pulled up to get in the truck. That has just about gone away. It has taken longer for that area to completely heal – still twinges when I sneeze! But it is really quite bearable and gets better all the time.
    Best of wishes for a good outcome – and I’ll see you on the road! My husband and I drive a white Freightliner Columbia for CRST!
    Becca

  • ds

    My husband is a over the road owner-operator. He just had two stints put in his heart and the doctor said as far as he was concerned he could go back to work tomorrow. We don’t know the rules for DOT, does anyone know how long they would require him to stay at home??

    Thanks.

  • gary

    in 2006 I had aortic heart valve replaced and mitral repaired .I have class a license and currently was driving and am still driving a cement mixer truck. I had to wait 3 months after having operation per dot law and get releases and echo for dot physical . get approved every year now not 2 years like b4 but otherwise everything about truck driving seem,s to b the same.

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