Abstract

Spinal cord (dorsal column) stimulation (SCS) and intraspinal opioids (ISO) are treatments for patients in whom abnormal illness behavior is absent but who have an objective basis for severe, persistent pain that has not been adequately relieved by other interventions. Usually, physicians prescribe these treatments in cancer pain or noncancer-related neuropathic pain settings. A survey of academic centers showed that 87% of responding centers use SCS and 84% use ISO. These treatments are performed frequently in nonacademic settings, so evaluators likely will encounter patients who were treated with SCS and ISO. Does SCS or ISO change the impairment associated with the underlying conditions for which these treatments are performed? Although the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) does not specifically address this question, the answer follows directly from the principles on which the AMA Guides impairment rating methodology is based. Specifically, “the impairment percents shown in the chapters that consider the various organ systems make allowance for the pain that may accompany the impairing condition.” Thus, impairment is neither increased due to persistent pain nor is it decreased in the absence of pain. In summary, in the absence of complications, the evaluator should rate the underlying pathology or injury without making an adjustment in the impairment for SCS or ISO.

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