Objective: It has been questioned whether the effect of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty lasts as years go by. From a previous study it is known that patients with severe rhonchopathy, complaining of sleepiness at the wheel, improve their vigilance and driving performance immediately following uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, but is this effect persisting?
Design: In a cohort study, the long-term effect of surgical treatment on driving vigilance was evaluated on 13 middle-aged (median, 52 years) male patients and five matched controls. Three to 4 years postoperatively, they were subjected to a boring 90-minute-long retest in an advanced driving simulator and daytime polysomnography, identical to those performed preoperatively. Factors measured were brake reaction time, lateral position deviation, and off-road incidents. The patients were also asked to assess their driving skills on a self-report and their vigilance on a visual analogue scale.
Results: All but one patient reported themselves as being more vigilant and safe drivers following surgery. Objective results showed that the initial improvement in brake reaction time, lateral position deviation, and number of off-road incidents was sustained, but not always in concordance with the apnea index.
Conclusion: The positive effect of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty on vigilance and driving performance remains after 4 years. This may have a substantial impact on traffic safety.