February 4, 2022

Characterizing the Driving Dilemma Among Patients with Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures: A Single-Center Prospective Cohort Study

Abstract appeared in PubMed and was originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: Driving is a critical topic to counsel among patients with epileptic seizures (ES) and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES), with significant legal and public health implications. This prospective cohort study examined the frequency of ES and PNES in a single institution’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) and assessed driving-related issues between each group.

Methods: Adult patients from the Mayo Clinic Arizona Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) were given comprehensive surveys addressing driving history. Descriptive analysis and statistics were used to summarize differences between patients with ES and PNES. Differences between patients with epilepsy and PNES were determined by Pearson chi-square.

Results: Nearly half (n = 75/163) of all patients admitted to the EMU were diagnosed with PNES. Although the PNES group had a statistically significant higher frequency of events (p = 0.01), 87.7% of these patients reported compliance with the driving law recommendations, suggesting a trend that patients who have been counseled regarding fitness-to-drive are likely to follow the recommendation. One-third of patients with PNES reported an event while operating a motor vehicle and 8% (n = 2/25) resulted in a motor vehicle collision severe enough to require hospitalization. In contrast to those with ES, 25% of patients reported a typical event while driving and 25% (n = 2/8) of those resulted in a collision requiring hospitalization. The incidence of habitual events while driving is higher in the population with PNES (n = 25) when compared to those with ES (n = 8); however, it appears that patients with PNES were less likely to become involved in an accident resulting in seriously bodily injury than in ES.

Conclusions: Compared to patients with PNES, patients with epileptic seizures have less frequent events but more severe collisions. This study reinforces the need for diligent driving counseling to help prevent driving-related injuries in patients with PNES and epileptic seizures.