This article addresses a number of issues regarding impairment evaluation and the use of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides). First, impairment is not synonymous with disability, and, as noted in the sixth and previous editions of the AMA Guides, no direct correlation exists between impairment and work restrictions or loss of earning capacity. An impairment rating does not directly equate to a permanent disability rating and does not solely determine compensation. The AMA Guides creates the opportunity for consistency of impairment ratings among physicians, but impairment ratings must be performed according to standards defined in the AMA Guides. Impairment rating values and methods in the AMA Guides can change between editions based on medical reasons. It is too early to determine the effects of changes in the sixth edition of the AMA Guides pending the accumulation of adequate experience using this edition, until impairment ratings associated with specific diagnoses can be compared, and until an adequate sample of cases can be evaluated and compared using the fifth and sixth editions. Use of the sixth edition may result in some lower impairment ratings, but this edition also expands the number of ratable conditions compared to previous versions. Finally, impairment determination is a medical issue, and more reasonable approaches should be developed to translate impairment into financial rewards.

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