Minimal hepatic encephalopathy is associated with motor vehicle crashes: The reality beyond the driving test


  • Potential conflict of interest: Dr. Bajaj is a consultant for, advises, and received grants from Salix and Ocera. Dr. Heuman received grants from Salix and Ocera. Dr. Sterling is a consultant for, advises, is on the speakers' bureau of, and received grants from Roche. He is also a consultant for and is on the speakers' bureau of Schering-Plough. He advises Vertex and Wako. He received grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline. He also advises and received grants from Bayers. Dr. Shiffman advises and is on the speakers' bureau of Salix.


Patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) have impaired driving skills, but association of MHE with motor vehicle crashes is unclear. Standard psychometric tests (SPT) or inhibitory control test (ICT) can be used to diagnose MHE. The aim was to determine the association of MHE with crashes and traffic violations over the preceding year and on 1-year follow-up. Patients with cirrhosis were diagnosed with MHE by ICT (MHEICT) and SPT (MHESPT). Self and department-of-transportation (DOT)-reports were used to determine crashes and violations over the preceding year. Agreement between self and DOT-reports was analyzed. Patients then underwent 1-year follow-up for crash/violation occurrence. Crashes in those with/without MHEICT and MHESPT were compared. 167 patients with cirrhosis had DOT-reports, of which 120 also had self-reports. A significantly higher proportion of MHEICT patients with cirrhosis experienced crashes in the preceding year compared to those without MHE by self-report (17% vs 0.0%, P = 0.0004) and DOT-reports (17% vs 3%, P = 0.004, relative risk: 5.77). SPT did not differentiate between those with/without crashes. A significantly higher proportion of patients with crashes had MHEICT compared to MHESPT, both self-reported (100% vs 50%, P = 0.03) and DOT-reported (89% vs 44%, P = 0.01). There was excellent agreement between self and DOT-reports for crashes and violations (Kappa 0.90 and 0.80). 109 patients were followed prospectively. MHEICT patients had a significantly higher future crashes/violations compared to those without (22% vs 7%, P = 0.03) but MHESPT did not. MHEICT (Odds ratio: 4.51) and prior year crash/violation (Odds ratio: 2.96) were significantly associated with future crash/violation occurrence. Conclusion: Patients with cirrhosis and MHEICT have a significantly higher crash rate over the preceding year and on prospective follow-up compared to patients without MHE. ICT, but not SPT performance is significantly associated with prior and future crashes and violations. There was an excellent agreement between self- and DOT-reports. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)