Spinal Impairment Evaluation: Fifth Edition Changes
Robert H. Haralson III
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The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, was published in November 2000 and contains major changes from its predecessor. In the Fourth Edition, all musculoskeletal evaluation and rating was described in a single chapter. In the Fifth Edition, this information has been divided into three separate chapters: Upper Extremity (13), Lower Extremity (14), and Spine (15). This article discusses changes in the spine chapter. The Models for rating spinal impairment now are called Methods. The AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, has reverted to standard terminology for spinal regions in the Diagnosis-related estimates (DRE) Method, and both it and the Range of Motion (ROM) Method now reference cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. Also, the language requiring the use of the DRE, rather than the ROM Method has been strengthened. The biggest change in the DRE Method is that evaluation should include the treatment results. Unfortunately, the Fourth Edition's philosophy regarding when and how to rate impairment using the DRE Model led to a number of problems, including the same rating of all patients with radiculopathy despite some true differences in outcomes. The term differentiator was abandoned and replaced with clinical findings. Significant changes were made in evaluation of patients with spinal cord injuries, and evaluators should become familiar with these and other changes in the Fifth Edition.

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