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New simulator helps hip replacement patients get back on the road

Paul Weitzman, 71, had severe arthritis in his right leg, making it difficult to get around, play with his grandkids and do everyday activities like driving.

“It got to a point where I couldn’t even get my leg into my car,” Weitzman said.  “I actually had to lift my leg up to get into my car.”

Now, just two-and-a half weeks out of hip replacement surgery, Weitzman is itching to get back behind the wheel.

Typically after surgery, there’s a six week wait before returning to normal activity.  But doctors say they may be able to cut down on that time.

Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon for the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, has developed a way to assess a patient’s driving ability and reaction time after hip surgery – through a driving simulator.

"This driving simulator truly simulates driving in many different road conditions,” Westrich said.  “Then by using this driving simulator, we work with our statisticians and designed a study such that we could assess different time points after surgery and figure out what would be the best time for patients to return to driving."

Westrich hopes to test 100 to 120 patients in total.  

Weitzman is currently enrolled in the study.   While he is already doing better on his driving test than he did before the surgery, it will still be a few more weeks before he can hit the road.