Abstract

Evaluations of the cervical and the lumbar spine are similar with the major exception that injury in the cervical spine may cause spinal cord damage that results in long-tract signs (weakness, numbness, or paralysis). The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment recognizes eight categories of cervical spine injury, and the first five are similar to those used for the lumbar spine. Category I involves no objective findings. Category II includes objective findings such as true muscle spasm, dysmetria, or nonverifiable radicular symptoms. Category III is radiculopathy and is assessed when the patient shows signs such as the loss of relevant reflexes or unilateral atrophy with a greater than 2-cm decrease in circumference compared with the unaffected side. Category IV is loss of motion segment integrity or multilevel neurologic compromise and indicates 3.5 mm or more translation of one vertebra on another on flexion and extension x-rays. Category V is severe upper extremity neurologic compromise that requires the use of upper extremity external functional or adaptive devices. Categories VI, VII, and VIII reflect a significant change in evaluating method and include long-tract signs in addition to upper extremity involvement. Category VI includes cauda equina–like symptoms without bowel or bladder involvement. Category VII is the same as Category VI but with bowel or bladder involvement. Category VIII is paraplegia, defined as complete or near-complete loss of function in the lower extremities.

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