How much difference does 20 years make? In 1994, a British study determined that you should not drive for at least 8 weeks after a total joint replacement in your right knee. Twenty years later, how has the advancement in surgical technique, implant materials, pain management and physical rehabilitation, changed the guidance on when you can return to driving? “We start with the understanding that you should not be on pain medications or narcotics,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Michael Sutton. “The next benchmark is whether your reflexes and normal strength have returned. And the third variable is whether it’s your right or left knee or hip.”
RIGHT OR LEFT – IT MATTERS
If the total joint replacement is on the left side, your chances of driving sooner are better. It’s your right knee — along with the help of your right hip — that needs to step on the accelerator and jump to the brake in case an emergency stop.
If it is your left knee or hip, you can probably drive as soon as you can bend it enough to climb into your car and drive comfortably.
A more recent US study of knee replacement patients tested the patients 4 weeks BEFORE surgery and at 4, 6 and 8 weeks AFTER surgery. They looked at response times and the ability to exert pressure on the accelerator and brake after right knee joint surgery.
Findings indicated a return to pre-surgery response levels by 4-weeks after surgery. (As an interesting aside, neither gender nor age seemed to make a difference on the time needed to recover.)
So, does that mean you can expect to return to driving 4 weeks after total joint replacement surgery? Not really.
Everyone recovers at a different rate. And there may be other variables to your health situation, such as heart problems or diabetes that can affect your recovery timetable. Your Orthopedic Specialist can help you decide when it’s best for you to get back on the road.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Association of Hip & Knee Surgeons, National Health Service (UK), National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeon, Journal of Joint & Bone Surgery