Seizure Behind Commerce Secretary Bryson's Crashes: Report

These attacks can often come with little warning and quickly disrupt driving, expert says

MONDAY, June 11, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A seizure may be to blame for U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson's two hit-and-run crashes that occurred Saturday in California's San Gabriel Valley, according to a Commerce Department spokeswoman.

"Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident in Los Angeles over the weekend. He suffered a seizure," Jennifer Friedman said in a statement, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"He was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and has returned to Washington. The investigation is ongoing. Secretary Bryson has no public events scheduled for today," Friedman said.

Bryson, 68, was driving his own vehicle on personal time and did not have a security team with him when the crashes occurred, sources told the Times.

Experts said the type of accident Bryson had is plausible when a person suffers a seizure.

The cause of the attack has not yet been made clear. "A large majority of seizures are of unknown cause. There are many other possible causes of seizures including prior head trauma, blood abnormalities, brain tumors, and strokes," Dr. Ralph Sacco, chief of neurology at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, told HealthDay. "Seizures can be treated and controlled with seizure medications, but the first step is to figure out the type and possible cause of the seizure."

While the cause of Bryson's attack remains uncertain, Dr. Keith Black, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, added that "a patient who has such seizures will most probably have an MRI scan and an EEG to detect if there is ongoing seizure activity. Having a first seizure makes it much more likely to have another," he explained.

"In addition, if someone has a seizure and loses consciousness, it has to be reported to the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] and usually the patient's driver's license is suspended for six months and until a doctor says it's alright to drive again," Black noted.

Following the collisions, Bryson was cited for felony hit-and-run but was not booked in jail because he was taken to a local hospital. He was cooperative with detectives, and drugs and alcohol do not appear to have been a factor, according to authorities.

"The investigation is in its preliminary stages," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and San Gabriel Police Department officials said in a statement, the Times reported.

After the two hit-and-runs late Saturday afternoon, police found Bryson alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his car.

Often, seizures give people very few warning signs. "When someone has a seizure he or she may have no sign of it," Black said. "There may be strange smells, there may be tingling in the arms or legs, or nausea. But, most of the time the person is unaware of what is happening and becomes confused."

Bryson became head of the Commerce Department in October 2011.

More information

The U.S. Department of Transportation has more on driving when you have had seizures.

SOURCES: Ralph Sacco, MD, chief of neurology, Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami; Keith Black, M.D., chairman and professor, department of neurosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles; June 11, 2012, Los Angeles Times
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