Abstract

The fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) use left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) as a variable to determine impairment caused by hypertensive disease. The issue of LVH, as assessed echocardiographically, is a prime example of medical science being at odds with legal jurisprudence. Some legislatures have allowed any cause of LVH in a hypertensive individual to be an allowed manifestation of hypertensive changes. This situation has arisen because a physician can never say that no component of LVH was not caused by the hypertension, even in an individual with a cardiomyopathy or valvular disorder. This article recommends that evaluators consider three points: if the cause of the LVH is hypertension, is the examinee at maximum medical improvement; is the LVH caused by hypertension or another factor; and, if apportionment is allowed, then a careful analysis of the risk factors for other disorders associated with LVH is necessary. The left ventricular mass index should be present in the echocardiogram report and can guide the interpretation of the alleged LVH; if not present, it should be requested because it facilitates a more accurate analysis. Further, if the cause of the LVH is more likely independent of the hypertension, then careful reasoning and an explanation should be included in the impairment report. If hypertension is only a partial cause, a reasoned analysis and clear explanation of the apportionment are required.

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