Orthopaedic surgery

Surgical Procedure Recommended return to non-manual employment Recommended return to manual employment Other Advice
Total hip replacement 6 weeks 3-6 months 6-8 weeks before driving 3 months before flying
Knee arthroscopy 1-2 weeks 3-4 weeks 2 weeks before prolonged sitting
ACL reconstruction   3-9 months Depending on workload
Partial meniscectomy 1-2 weeks 2 weeks  
Total knee replacement 6 weeks 12 weeks Recovery time depends on: Regaining the strength and mobility in the leg to be able to use public transport or drive to get to work. People who’ve had a Knee Replacement sometimes find that in the long term, they need to be redeployed into a role which is less strenuous if they do particularly heavy work Specific Driving advice: Normally, it is safest to avoid driving for 8 weeks after a knee replacement.
Achilles tendon repair   3-6 months Depending on workload
Bunionectomy/ osteotomy 6-8 weeks 6-12 weeks Shorter if little or no walking Specific Driving Advice:25% safe to drive after 2 weeks, all safe after 6 weeks
Ingrowing toenail removal of nailbed 2 weeks 2 weeks Longer if walking long distances
Lower limb amputation   6 months  
Carpal tunnel release 1-2 weeks (Supervisory, managerial) Light manual - clerical or secretarial work: 2 to 4 weeks Medium manual - cleaner, carer, nurse, check-out operative: 4 to 6 weeks Heavy manual: 6 to 10 weeks Custodial or rescue services: 6 to 10 weeks Return to work advice: The ‘Fitnote’ can be used to ask the employer about returning to work on lighter duties at first. This means avoiding tasks which put a strain on the hands, for example typing, using the telephone, or lifting more than 5kg at a time, amongst other things.

# wrist non-dominant

# wrist dominant

# clavicle

1 week

12 weeks

6 weeks



12 weeks

Upper limb amputation Dependent on role 3 months  
Shoulder arthroscopic subacromial decompression 2-6 weeks 6-12 weeks Bursa takes around six weeks to reform, so activity during this period may be painful and limited
Shoulder rotator cuff repair 4-12 weeks 3-6 months Complete immobilisation for first 2-6 weeks, so early work activity will be limited
Scaphoid open reduction and fixation 4-6 weeks After union  
Microdiscectomy 4 weeks 6-12 weeks Whilst recovering, the patient should avoid sitting in one position for more than 15-20 minutes. Stretching and walking regularly whilst at work are recommended. Some people who’ve had a discectomy find that they need to be redeployed into a role which is less strenuous - particularly if their job demands a lot of heavy lifting, driving or potentially violent situations.
Spinal decompression and fusion   3-6 months  
Wrist fusion non-dominant 1 week   Outcome of wrist fusion depends on reason for surgery (after trauma a much faster recovery is expected than surgery for rheumatoid arthritis)
Wrist fusion dominant   4 months For some manual workers/ skilled trades a permanent redeployment may be necessary

In addition to the sources outlined in Figure 1, Driver Licensing15 information has been utilised to compile the above information.  GPs are encouraged to refer directly to this and the other listed sources (Figure 1).



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