To Drive Or Not To Drive? New Criteria For Those With Epilepsy

"...it's a tremendously important issue for people with epilepsy."

Having a seizure while driving is one worry that nags people with epilepsy, and to date, no good research exists that lets them predict their risk of an accident. A new study at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, however, tells how epilepsy patients and their physicians can assess chances of having an auto accident due to seizures.

The study, in this month's issue of Neurology, is the first to examine specific seizure risk factors and link them with driving mishaps. This approach, the researchers say, may be more effective in reducing auto deaths than the policies state motor vehicle administrations now use which, the study also found, a significant number of epilepsy patients ignore. Most states don't let people with epilepsy drive unless they're seizure-free for a specific interval. Such intervals vary widely, usually from three to 18 months.

The researchers believe the study will let physicians tailor safer individual driving programs for patients by offering them a tool to evaluate their risks.

"For years, people thought you shouldn't drive at all if you have epilepsy," says Hopkins neurologist Gregory Krauss, M.D., who led the researchers. "Then it became clear that risks aren't high for people who have seizures, as long as they're controlled. But there's a gray area for people whose seizures aren't perfectly controlled -- is it safe to drive? How do you decide? That's what we've been able to assess. It's a tremendously important issue for people with epilepsy."

The researchers examined two groups of 50 epilepsy patients from their Maryland clinics, matched for age and sex. Both groups drove, but one had a history of seizure-related car crashes. The scientists found four illness-related characteristics of the patients that could help predict accidents. The single feature most linked with cr

Contact: Marjorie Centofanti
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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