When is it safe to traveling by car after knee replacement surgery as a passenger?
Most patients return to driving after total knee replacement surgery in 6 weeks. Here in the United States some patients will return to driving sooner if the replacement was on the left knee.
Surgeon’s often have 3 criteria for return to driving:
- Patients must be off the narcotic pain medication.
- Patients must be off a walker and walking independently.
- Patients must feel safe and comfortable driving again.
Click the link for more information about driving after a total knee replacement.
Best Way to Ride Home After Surgery
The easiest way to ride home in a car following total knee replacement surgery is to slide into the back seat.
I recommend getting in backside first with your surgical leg staying closes to the back of the car. In some cars you may decide to keep your leg elevated and resting on the seat. In larger vehicles you might be able to place your foot on the car’s floorboard.
In most cases the local anesthesia will manage pain for several hours after surgery so the car ride should not be too painful.
* Tip – placing a plastic garbage bag on the seat before sitting will make sliding your body into position easier.
Going on a 2 Hour Car Ride After Total Knee Replacement Surgery
For a 2 hour car ride as the passenger, most post surgical patients will do well with the following list of supplies:
If possible, taking time to elevate the foot and pump the ankle will help to reduce lower extremity swelling and risk of blood clots. 
Using a cold pack after the first hour could help make the second hour more enjoyable.
The compression wrap may help to provide warmth and security to the knee while minimizing fluid accumulation during the drive.
As the driver you will not be able to elevate the leg, but you have control over when you choose to stop and “stretch your legs.”
The best advice for drivers who recently had a total knee replacement is to stop for a rest break before you need to stop. Drinking adequate levels of water will ensure that you can’t drive too far without a restroom break. These short and frequent breaks will make the drive far more enjoyable.
1. Stringer MD, Steadman CA, Hedges AR, Thomas EM, Morley TR, Kakkar VV. Deep vein thrombosis after elective knee surgery. An incidence study in 312 patients. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1989 May;71(3):492-7. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.71B3.2785998. PMID: 2785998.