Hospital trials driver recovery test

Researchers at Norfolk's biggest hospital are hoping to carry out an extensive trial that will determine when a patient is fit to drive after leg surgery.

Researchers at Norfolk's biggest hospital are hoping to carry out an extensive trial that will determine when a patient is fit to drive after leg surgery.

Specialists in the orthopaedic department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have so far carried out limited research using a device developed by Norfolk car manufacturer Lotus.

But now they hope to take the study forward to produce meaningful results that will get closer to a definitive answer on when a patient is able to drive again after knee or hip replacements, hysterectomy or surgery to repair sporting injuries.

Orthopaedics research manager Clare Darrah said: “After surgery one of the main things that patient's are interested in is when they can drive again, particularly if they live in a rural part of Norfolk.

“If you ask insurance companies, they usually say it is when a doctor says you can drive again.”

The current advice is to wait around six weeks but the research now aims to provide a more scientific answer to that question.

Most Read

The N&N asked car maker Lotus to come up with a device that simulates pedal pressures. With an accelerator and brake, a patient is measured on their response in moving from the accelerator to the brake before they have their operation. They are then tested post-op and the response times and pressure is measured by a computer programme.

At this stage, only nine patients have been involved and their efforts compared with people with normal leg movement but researchers say that a much larger group is now required to provide more relevant outcomes.

The Lotus pedal rig was built with £2,500 of financial assistance from Action Arthritis, a local charity dedicated to helping further work on orthopaedic conditions.

At the moment the focus has been only on right leg operations.

“We hope to extend this in time for other operations. We are also asking Lotus to extend their pedal rig and add a car seat and a steering wheel to make it more realistic,” added Ms Darrah.

“But this is not a surrogate for safe driving. We realise that it is not just about leg movement that there are other factors such as visual stimulation.”

Pupils from Wymondham College have also been working with Lotus to help design a device to test post-op leg strength and reactions.

Other researchers have carried out informal trials to try to answer the key question of when a patient can drive again, but this is viewed as the beginning of a more formal and long-term approach. The N&N team is currently seeking permission from its ethics committee to move ahead with the trial and if successful, hopes to recruit patients for the more formal stage of the trial within the next two months,

Ms Darrah said: “We have been thinking about carrying out research into this field for a number of years now and the expertise Lotus offers us has allowed us to get this project off the ground. It is important research and this is just the first step but it may have benefits for a very large number of people who want to start driving again after having surgery or recovering from an injury.”

Also involved in the trial are orthopaedic specialists Simon Donell and David Calder and Mark Swindells plus Ms Darrah's team from the orthopaedic department.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter