After hip replacement surgery, patients likely want to resume normal activities like driving. The preliminary results of a new study suggest they may be able to do just that.
This study showed that most patients were ready to return to driving four weeks after total hip replacement surgery.
The researchers also found that patients under 70 years of age recovered sooner after their hip replacement surgery than older patients.
This study was led by Geoffrey H. Westrich, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Co-Chairman of the Complex Case Review Panel at Hospital for Special Surgery.
The research team worked with 100 patients from three orthopedic surgeons at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
These patients were tested to record their braking reaction times using a fully interactive driving simulator that was provided by the American Automobile Association.
Each participant recorded their reaction time in the simulator prior to receiving a total hip replacement on the right side. Participants were then selected randomly to retake the test at either two, three or four weeks after their surgery.
"One of the most common questions patients ask after hip replacement is when they can start driving again, and this is the first study of its kind to test their reaction time after the procedure," said Dr. Westrich, who came up with the idea for the driving simulator while watching his children play video games.
The driving simulator included a gas and a brake pedal that timed the participant’s reaction time when a stop sign appeared on the screen. The timer measured the reaction time it took to remove their foot from the gas pedal and apply pressure to the brake pedal.
The study considered the participants to be fully recovered when they matched or improved upon their pre-surgery reaction time in the simulator.
The researchers found that patients' reaction times remained worse than their pre-surgery times when tested at two and three weeks after surgery.
The researchers also found that at four weeks after surgery, patients improved their reaction time compared to their time before surgery.
Patients under 70 were able to improve their reaction time sooner than those over the age of 70, the study revealed.
"By using a standardized, driving simulator to measure reaction times, our study will be reproducible and we can apply our model to other surgical procedures that may affect one's ability to drive safely postoperatively," the researchers wrote.
According to the authors of this study, the current practice is that patients should wait six weeks before driving.
This research was presented March 11 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in New Orleans. All studies presented at conference are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.