Background. No long-term studies have been reported on the effect of training programs on driving after stroke. Objectives. The authors’ primary aim was to determine the effect of simulator versus cognitive rehabilitation therapy on fitness to drive at 5 years poststroke. A second aim was to investigate differences in clinical characteristics between stroke survivors who resumed and stopped driving. Methods. In a previously reported randomized controlled trial (RCT), 83 stroke survivors received 15 hours of simulator training (n = 42) or cognitive therapy (n = 41). In this 5-year follow-up study, 61 participants were reassessed. Fitness-to-drive decisions were obtained from medical, visual, neuropsychological, and on-road tests;
44 participants (simulator group, n = 21; cognitive group, n = 23) completed all assessments. The primary outcome measures were fitness-to-drive decision and current driving status. Results. The authors found that 5 years after stroke, 18 out of 30 participants (60%) in the simulator group were considered fit to drive, compared with 15 out of 31 (48%) in the cognitive group (P = .36); 34 out of 61 (56%) participants were driving. Current drivers were younger (P = .04), had higher Barthel scores (P = .008), had less comorbidity (P = .01), and were less severely depressed (P = .02) than those who gave up driving.
Conclusions. The advantage of simulator-based driving training over cognitive rehabilitation therapy, evident at 6 months poststroke, had faded 5 years later. Poststroke drivers were younger and less severely affected and depressed than nondrivers.