Impairment Tutorial: Functionally Limiting Upper Extremity Pain: Controversies in Impairment Rating
Lorne Direnfeld
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James Talmage
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Christopher Brigham
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Abstract

This article was prompted by the submission of two challenging cases that exemplify the decision processes involved in using the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides). In both cases, the physical examinations were normal with no evidence of illness behavior, but, based on their histories and clinical presentations, the patients reported credible symptoms attributable to specific significant injuries. The dilemma for evaluators was whether to adhere to the AMA Guides, as written, or to attempt to rate impairment in these rare cases. In the first case, the evaluating neurologist used alternative approaches to define impairment based on the presence of thoracic outlet syndrome and upper extremity pain, as if there were a nerve injury. An orthopedic surgeon who evaluated the case did not base impairment on pain and used the upper extremity chapters in the AMA Guides. The impairment ratings determined using either the nervous system or upper extremity chapters of the AMA Guides resulted in almost the same rating (9% vs 8% upper extremity impairment), and either value converted to 5% whole person permanent impairment. In the second case, the neurologist evaluated the individual for neuropathic pain (9% WPI), and the orthopedic surgeon rated the patient as Diagnosis-related estimates Cervical Category II for nonverifiable radicular pain (5% to 8% WPI).

  • 1.

    Stewart JD. Focal Peripheral Neuropathies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott, Williams and Williams; 2000.

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