Abstract

The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, stresses that impairment assessment should be based on objective evidence of organ dysfunction. Using this model, pain-related impairment (PRI) such as migraine headache not associated with definable organ dysfunction is difficult to reconcile with patients’ reports of limitations in their activities of daily living (ADL). Chapter 18 of the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, systematically addresses PRI and differs from previous editions by allowing examiners to award both quantitative and qualitative impairments. PRI is challenging to integrate with other chapters of the AMA Guides, which provide conventional impairment ratings (CIR) based on objectively measurable organ dysfunction. Examining physicians should consider PRI when performing an impairment evaluation on an individual who has a condition associated with pain, including almost any orthopedic condition and most neurological conditions. The examiner must determine if an individual's PRI should be considered as incorporated in the CIR or if the PRI increases the burden of illness above that acknowledged in the CIR—and only in the latter case should the physician use Chapter 18. This chapter distinguishes ratable vs unratable PRI, but better terminology may be uncontroversial and controversial PRI, respectively. Ten steps are involved in a PRI assessment and require the examining physician to use a multiaxial approach, synthesize information from multiple sources, and carefully assess the individual's credibility and pain behavior.

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