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Chest. 1995 Sep;108(3):619-24.

Vigilance and automobile accidents in patients with sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

Author information

1
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA.

Abstract

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy report difficulty remaining alert and attentive. To detect impaired vigilance, we designed Steer Clear, a computer program simulating a long and monotonous highway drive that presents 780 obstacles in 30 min. Sixty-two patients with sleep apnea hit a higher percentage of obstacles (4.3 +/- 0.6% [SEM]) than 12 age- and sex-matched subjects without sleep apnea (1.4 +/- 0.3%; p < 0.05) and 10 age- and sex-matched volunteers (1.2 +/- 0.3%; p < 0.05). Ten patients with untreated narcolepsy hit a higher percentage of obstacles while performing on Steer Clear (7.7 +/- 3.2%) than 10 age- and sex-matched subjects without narcolepsy (1.2 +/- 0.3%; p < 0.05). Poor performance on Steer Clear was associated with a higher auto accident rate in the patients with sleep apnea or narcolepsy (p < 0.01). Twenty-one patients who performed normally on Steer Clear had 1 accident in 5 years (0.05 accident/driver/5 yr), and in none of these accidents were they at fault as drivers. Twenty-five patients who performed poorly on Steer Clear had 5 auto accidents in 5 years (0.20 accident/driver/5 yr), and in 20% of these accidents they were at fault as drivers. Twenty-one patients who performed very poorly on Steer Clear had 8 auto accidents in 5 years (0.38 accident/driver/5 yr), and in 38% of these accidents they were at fault as drivers. These 21 patients who performed very poorly on Steer Clear (hitting > 4.5% of obstacles) had a significantly higher auto accident rate than the patients who performed normally (hitting < 1.8%). We conclude: (1) Patients with sleep apnea or narcolepsy performed more poorly on a test of vigilance, Steer Clear, than did control subjects; (2) Impaired vigilance as measured by Steer Clear is associated with a high automobile accident rate in patients with either sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

PMID:
7656606
DOI:
10.1378/chest.108.3.619
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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