While there are variations from patient to patient, the typical time to return to driving after knee replacement surgeryknee replacement surgery is between 4 to 8 weeks. There are multiple factors that influence this time.
You need to be off of narcotic medicine before you can drive. The side of the operation does make a difference. A left knee replacement will hinder you less (if you drive an automatic transmission) than a right knee replacement. Additionally, you need be able to get in and out of a car well. Smaller, compact or sports cars will make this more difficult. A larger car or SUV will be easier to maneuver through after surgery.
The most important factor is the ability to perform a panic stop with full braking in the event of an emergency. You should imagine a small child running out in front of the car and assess your ability to prevent an accident. The first time you return to driving it is recommended to practice at low speed and be honest with yourself about your current capabilities. Older patients may need more time because they typically have slower reaction time and may not recover as quickly from a major operation.
In August of 2011, a study looked at the Brake Response Times After Contemporary Total Knee ArthroplastyBrake Response Times After Contemporary Total Knee Arthroplasty. The authors found that with the use of multimodal pain management and intensive physical therapy, that brake response times returned to baseline levels by 4 weeks after surgery.