A total knee replacement (TKR) is a surgical procedure in which the damaged parts of the knee joint are removed and replaced with artificial parts (prostheses). The goal of the knee replacement surgery is to relieve pain and improve the function of the knee. The procedure is typically done under general anesthesia and takes about 1-2 hours. Recovery time can vary, but most people can return to normal activities within a few months.
In the weeks after total knee replacement surgery, patients look forward to resuming their daily activities without being dependent on their family members, with driving being on the top list. Thus, the one question that is asked of every orthopedic surgeon post-TKR surgery is, “When can I start driving?” Here is a quick guide on the question asked.
What do Surgeons Recommend?
It is difficult to give an exact timeframe as to when you can start driving after a TKR surgery as varies across individuals and their recovery patterns. As a general rule, guidelines say that you can resume driving “when you can bend your knee enough to get in and out of the car and control the car properly”. It means that when you can be in full control of your car or the vehicle, then you should resume driving.
Generally, you can drive between 4 to 6 weeks after total knee replacement surgery. Your surgeon will advise you on the specific time based on your recovery and healing process.
When is The Right Time to Resume Driving After TKR?
Driving after your TKR surgery depends on various factors.
- The operated knee
The time you can drive depends on the knee for which the surgery was done.
- Left total knee replacement: If you have undergone a total knee replacement surgery on your left leg, you may be able to drive an automatic transmission vehicle within 4 weeks of your surgery. With a manual transmission vehicle, you may require a few more weeks for your left leg to fully gain strength to operate the clutch. You will be allowed to drive once you can get in and out of your car easily and you have stopped any narcotic pain medications (medications that contain opioids which can make you drowsy and confused) that can hamper your driving skills.
- Right total knee replacement: If you have undergone a right total knee replacement, driving will not be recommended for at least 4 weeks (maybe longer) after surgery. This is because your right knee is used for controlling the brake and the accelerator. The ability to use the brakes and the reaction time will be slower than normal after surgery. Also, you must gain enough muscle strength and pre-surgical reflexes before driving, as any delay in the braking response is dangerous.
- Your fitness levels
Your fitness before the surgery plays a vital role in recovery. If you have strong muscles and are fit, then you will recover faster than others, as good muscle strength helps in stabilizing the new artificial knee. This will further help you get back on the wheel quickly.
If you are on any narcotic medications or painkillers that make you drowsy, your surgeon will recommend you not to drive, as they will decrease mental alertness and reaction time.
Advice on Driving After Total Knee Replacement
You can start driving once your surgeon gives you a green signal, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind.
- Keeping Your Mind and Body Sharp
You must be alert before and while driving and ensure the safety of others and yourself.
- Before Driving
- You should be off any pain medications that can impair your driving skills as they make you tired and diminish your reflexes.
- Your muscle strength, the flexibility of the knee, and pre-surgery reflexes should be the same as they were before surgery. This can be achieved by following physical rehabilitation as advised by your therapist during the recovery period.
- While Driving
- Start with short, easy drives and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your drives. Adjust the position of your seat, steering wheel, and mirrors to accommodate your new knee. You may need to sit higher in the seat or use a cushion to raise your leg. Avoid sudden stops or turns that could cause your knee to twist or bend too much. Pay attention to your body’s signals, and do not drive if you are experiencing pain or discomfort that affects your ability to control the vehicle safely.
- Adjusting to Your New Knee
You must be aware after surgery that this is your new knee, and things will be different. This involves getting in and out of the car, adjusting the seat to a comfortable position, and finding a new position so that your leg remains straight and does not bump into the dashboard.
It may take up to 12 weeks or 3 months to recover after total knee replacement surgery. However, you may be able to resume your driving after about 4 to 6 weeks, as per the advice of your surgeon and your healing time. It is important to ensure that you follow all the guidelines and advice before going on the roads for others’ and your safety. Get in touch with our experienced orthopedic surgeons at Medfin to guide you better on the aspects of driving after TKR surgery.
Also Read To Know More About Complete: Knee Replacement Surgery
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