Driving with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): High prevalence of OSA risk in drivers who experienced a motor vehicle crash.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for motor vehicle crashes (MVC), and patients with diagnosed OSA have a higher likelihood of being involved in a traffic accident. OSA, however, is often underdiagnosed in the general population. The purpose of this study was to assess the risk of undiagnosed OSA among hospitalized patients involved in MVCs. This is a prospective, observational pilot study of adult trauma patients admitted to a Level 1 trauma center after being the driver in a MVC. Patients were administered the STOP-Bang to assess risk of OSA and were asked questions about the circumstances of the MVC. Patients with a STOP-Bang score 5-8 were considered to be at high risk for OSA. Differences between variables were assessed using independent t-tests and chi-square. Eighty patients participated in the study, and 26% (n = 21) were considered to be at high risk for OSA based on the STOP-Bang score. Compared to patients at low and intermediate risk, patients at high risk for OSA were significantly older (p < .001), had longer hospitalization (p = .06), and were less likely to discharge home from the hospital (p = .01). Patients at moderate and high risk had higher rates of hospital readmission within 1 year of discharge, when compared to the low risk group. Eighty-four percent of all crashes involved a single occupant (driver) in the vehicle, 58% involved only a single vehicle, and 40% occurred on a rural road. There were no significant differences between risk groups for number of vehicles involved in the accident, location of the accident, or number of vehicle occupants. Results of this pilot study suggest that more than one-quarter of drivers hospitalized after motor vehicle crashes were at high risk for OSA. Diagnosed or undiagnosed OSA is a significant public health concern and an established risk factor for motor vehicle accidents. Standardized screening for risk of sleep apnea should be considered by primary care physicians when guiding patients on health and behavior decisions, particularly in regards to driving and road safety.