Epileptic Seizures While Driving and the Risk of Crashes Are Research Focus

Epileptic Seizures While Driving and the Risk of Crashes Are Research Focus

Epilepsy patients taking part in a simulated driving experiment confirmed that longer seizures are linked to a greater risk of a car crash.

Hal Blumenfeld, PhD, director of the Yale Clinical Neuroscience Imaging Center, presented the results of the research at the recent American Epilepsy Society annual meeting (AES 2016) in Houston. The study is titled, “Testing of Patients with Epilepsy on Driving Simulation during Inpatient Video/Eeg Monitoring.”

Around 75% of epilepsy patients control their seizures with medication, making them fit to drive. Those who don’t use medication typically keep a journal of when their seizures occur and for how long, so doctors can decide whether they can drive safely.

The study involved 16 epilepsy patients using a driving simulator. The average test period was three to four hours, but some patients used the simulator up to 10 hours. Twenty seizures were observed, with seven leading to crashes.

Researchers discovered that the average seizure of patients who didn’t crash lasted 30 seconds, while the average for patients who did crash was more than twice as long — 75 seconds.

“Our goal is to identify if certain types of seizures — coming from a specific part of the brain or causing a particular brain wave pattern — are more likely to lead to a crash,” Blumenfeld said in a press release. “That information could then be used by doctors to objectively determine who can safely drive and who should not.”

The research team is calling for additional research so as to possibly determine which type of seizures are most likely to cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle.

“Testing of driving inpatient video/EEG monitoring may be a useful way to determine factors that influence driving safety,” the study concluded. “We found that seizure duration and impaired consciousness are potentially important factors influencing driving performance. With further work, we hope to expand upon our current analysis and determine whether specific seizure types or localizations present a greater driving risk, with the goal of providing improved guidance to physicians and patients with epilepsy.”


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