Abstract

This article addresses some criticisms of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) by comparing previously published outcome data from a group of complete spinal cord injury (SCI) persons with impairment ratings for a corresponding level of injury calculated using the AMA Guides, Sixth Edition. Results of the comparison show that impairment ratings using the sixth edition scale poorly with the level of impairments of activities of daily living (ADL) in SCI patients as assessed by the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) motor scale and the extended FIM motor scale. Because of the combinations of multiple impairments, the AMA Guides potentially overrates the impairment of paraplegics compared with that of quadriplegics. The use and applicability of the Combined Values formula should be further investigated, and complete loss of function of two upper extremities seems consistent with levels of quadriplegia using the SCI model. Some aspects of the AMA Guides contain inconsistencies. The concept of diminishing impairment values is not easily translated between specific losses of function per organ system and “overall” loss of ADLs involving multiple organ systems, and the notion of “catastrophic thresholds” involving multiple organ systems may support the understanding that variations in rating may exist in higher rating cases such as those that involve an SCI.

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