Accessibility Tools

Total Knee Replacement: Why Wait 6 Weeks to Drive

Total Knee Replacement: Why Wait 6 Weeks to Drive
Dr Dan Albright total knee replacementWhen recovering from a total knee replacement, it can hard for some people to give up their freedom to drive even for a short time.  A big question for many patients is when they can start to drive again.  There are several factors to consider when deciding when is the right time.
What is a Total Knee Replacement?
Total Knee Replacement, otherwise known as a Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA) is a surgery that is performed when injury or arthritis interferes with a person's mobility. A surgeon makes an incision and removes damaged tissue and bone and replaces them with artificial components.
Left Knee Versus Right Knee Recovery
One consideration is on which knee was the surgery performed.  The right leg is used to drive an automatic transmission car, so the leg must be healed enough to handle the job.  A patient must wait a minimum of six weeks after surgery to drive with a right knee replacement.  After your initial period of recovery, you may need to use a cane to get around. When driving you use of your foot and ankle.  Early on even though these may be useable, but may make your legs feel fatigued.
If the knee replacement was done to the left side--recovery might be shorter than a month if it is an automatic transmission.
Another thing to consider is the patient's fitness before knee replacement surgery.  Having strong muscles and generally good fitness will result in a quicker recovery.  Strong muscles help stabilize the new knee.  After surgery, adherence to a physical therapy regiment will ensure a positive recovery.
Before Driving
A patient must also take into account what might be different with the new knee. Getting in and out of a car, regardless of which knee is in recovery will be different — for example, readjusting the seat and steering wheel to new positions may be required to obtain a comfortable position.   A new position will help avoid bumping the leg and keeping it straight.
A patient can review getting in and out of a car in physical therapy.  The therapist can show ways to practice getting in and out of a vehicle without flexing the joint.
One final point is to use whatever makes the leg feel comfortable. When cleared by the surgeon, drive with extra caution. Be aware that you may be slow to react when hitting the brake. It will take more due diligence to prepare for that.
For more information recovering from a total knee replacement, contact Dr. Dan Albright at 919-863-6808.
  • ABOS
  • AAOS
  • NCOA
  • PractEssentials