The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fourth Edition, uses the Injury Model to rate impairment in people who have experienced back injuries. Injured individuals who have not required surgery can be rated using differentiators. Challenges arise when assessing patients whose injuries have been treated surgically before the patient is rated for impairment. This article discusses five of the most common situations: 1) What is the impairment rating for an individual who has had an injury resulting in sciatica and who has been treated surgically, either with chemonucleolysis or with discectomy? 2) What is the impairment rating for an individual who has a back strain and is operated on without reasonable indications? 3) What is the impairment rating of an individual with sciatica and a foot drop (major anterior tibialis weakness) from L5 root damage? 4) What is the rating for an individual who is injured, has true radiculopathy, undergoes a discectomy, and is rated as Category III but later has another injury and, ultimately, a second disc operation? 5) What is the impairment rating for an older individual who was asymptomatic until a minor strain-type injury but subsequently has neurogenic claudication with severe surgical spinal stenosis on MRI/myelography? [Continued in the September/October 1997 The Guides Newsletter]

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