1996 AHA/NASPE Personal and Public Safety Issues Related to Arrhythmias That May Affect Consciousness: Implications for Regulation and Physician Recommendations

Patients with arrhythmias may experience complete or partial loss of consciousness, and questions about activities that are safe for them arise every day. 

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Patients with arrhythmias may experience complete or partial loss of consciousness, and questions about activities that are safe for them arise every day. Probably the most common question concerns the advisability of driving, because the safety of both patients and others may be threatened when personal or professional activities are performed by persons with arrhythmias that may impair consciousness.

In view of the magnitude of this problem, the American Heart Association and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (NASPE) cosponsored two conferences on medical and regulatory issues related to arrhythmias in the context of driving and other activities. The first conference, “Driving and Arrhythmias: Medical Aspects,” was held at the NASPE Scientific Session on May 10, 1994, in Nashville, Tenn.

The conference was chaired by William M. Miles, MD, and cochaired by Gregory A. Kidwell, MD, and Elizabeth J. Darling, MSN, RN. The second conference, “Personal and Public Safety Issues Related to Arrhythmias That May Affect Consciousness: Implications for Regulation and Physician Recommendations,” was held January 12 through 13, 1995, in Washington, DC, and was chaired by Andrew E. Epstein, MD.

The second conference had a broader focus and addressed regulatory and legal issues related to activities in patients with arrhythmias that may result in impaired consciousness. This statement is based on the proceedings of the two conferences.