Back in the Driver's Seat after Total Knee ReplacementTotal knee replacement (TKR) can greatly improve knee function. But in the weeks right after surgery, TKR patients can have a lot of pain and problems moving. Part of recovery from TKR is taking it slow until the knee is ready.
One activity that doctors tell patients to avoid right after TKR is driving. Driving too soon after TKR can be dangerous. The knee is just not ready to do the quick, forceful movements of braking. Doctors usually tell TKR patients to wait at least eight weeks before driving.
However, this is not based on much research. These authors tested braking time in 31 patients before TKR. They tested the same patients again three, six, and nine weeks after surgery. The authors compared the results before and after surgery. The braking times were not much different even three weeks after TKR. The authors found much quicker braking times for all patients six and nine weeks after surgery. The authors found that men had much faster brake times than women at all times tested.
Results were also compared to data from people of the same age who did not have TKR. The men had times that were average when compared to people with no TKR. The women who had a TKR, while showing dramatic improvement, still didn't have even average braking time.
The authors also found that brake times didn't seem to depend on which knee had been replaced. This was surprising. They expected to find that patients who had a TKR in the right knee would have more problems braking.
The authors conclude that doctors can allow patients to drive six weeks after TKR, as long as there are no other health or function issues.
Jeffery L. Pierson, MD, et al. Brake Response Time after Total Knee Arthroplasty: When Is It Safe for Patients to Drive? In The Journal of Arthroplasty. October 2003. Vol. 18. No. 7. Pp. 840-843.
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