Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome leads to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents through multiple pathways. Sleep apnea and motor vehicle crashes are common, and motor vehicle collisions are the leading causes of death amongst accidents. Therefore, the clinician charged with the care of apneic patients must address the issue of safe driving. Some recent evidence reveals that driving simulator technology may discriminate apneic drivers from control drivers as well as those apneics at a lesser risk for automobile crashes. This same tool demonstrates an improvement in driving capabilities to baseline when patients with sleep apnea are treated with nasal continuous positive airway pressure and that this improvement may occur rapidly. The prevention of driving accidents in patients with sleep apnea appears cost effective. Educating the patient with sleep apnea about sleepy driving and objective documentation of treatment efficacy are important in reducing the likelihood of accidents.
Copyright 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.