Letter to the Editor: The Continuing Challenge of Evaluating RSD Impairment and Disability
Robert L. Knobler Professor of Neurology Director, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Clinic Jefferson Medical College

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Charles N. Brooks Professor of Neurology, Jefferson Medical College, Fellow, American Academy of Disability Evaluating Physicians, Fellow, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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Leon H. Ensalada Professor of Neurology, Jefferson Medical College, Fellow, American Academy of Disability Evaluating Physicians, Fellow, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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James B. Talmage
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Christopher R. Brigham
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Abstract

The author of the two-part article about evaluating reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) responds to criticisms that a percentage impairment score may not adequately reflect the disability of an individual with RSD. The author highlights the importance of recognizing the difference between impairment and disability in the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides): impairment is the loss, loss of use, or derangement of any body part, system, or function; disability is a decrease in or the loss or absence of the capacity to meet personal, social, or occupational demands or to meet statutory or regulatory requirements because of an impairment. The disparity between impairment and disability can be encountered in diverse clinical scenarios. For example, a person's ability to resume occupational activities following a major cardiac event depends on medical, social, and psychological factors, but nonmedical factors appear to present the greatest impediment and many persons do not resume work despite significant improvements in functional capacity. A key requirement according to the AMA Guides is objective documentation, and the author agrees that when physicians consider the disability evaluation of people, more issues than those relating to the percentage loss of function should be considered. More study of the relationships among impairment, disability, and quality of life in patients with RSD are required.

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