Rating Spinal Stenosis: AMA Guides Sixth Edition Case Example
Marjorie Eskay-Auerbach
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Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal that may result in compression of the spinal cord, or cauda equina. The most common type of spinal stenosis is degenerative stenosis associated with the natural process of aging. In the lumbar spine, the narrowing may result in compression of spinal nerve roots, causing a constellation of symptoms that may include lower pack pain, neurogenic claudication, and lower extremity pain. This case illustrates the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Sixth Edition process of assessing impairment for spinal stenosis. The case involves a 54-year-old male truck driver whose lumbar spine was injured when he unloaded and lifted a tire; he underwent lumbar decompression at L3-4 and L4-5, and fourteen months after surgery was evaluated as being at maximum medical improvement, was able to walk, and could void spontaneously. In a one-page final medical report, the patient's physician hand wrote a note assigning 29% whole person impairment without a medical rationale to support the rating. The author of this case example first notes that the medical reporting does not support placing this patient in class 4, and the examinee's condition is most consistent with a class 1 rating for spinal stenosis. Using Section 17.3, Adjustment Grids and Grade Modifiers: Non-Key Factors, an evaluator would conclude a grade B, 6% whole person impairment for the lumbar spine.

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