Abstract

Recurrent radiculopathy is evaluated by a different approach in the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, compared to that in the Fourth Edition. The AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, specifies several occasions on which the range-of-motion (ROM), not the Diagnosis-related estimates (DRE) method, is used to rate spinal impairments. For example, the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, clarifies that ROM is used only for radiculopathy caused by a recurrent injury, including when there is new (recurrent) disk herniation or a recurrent injury in the same spinal region. In the AMA Guides, Fourth Edition, radiculopathy was rated using the Injury Model, which is termed the DRE method in the Fifth Edition. Also, in the Fourth Edition, for the lumbar spine all radiculopathies resulted in the same impairment (10% whole person permanent impairment), based on that edition's philosophy that radiculopathy is not quantifiable and, once present, is permanent. A rating of recurrent radiculopathy suggests the presence of a previous impairment rating and may require apportionment, which is the process of allocating causation among two or more factors that caused or significantly contributed to an injury and resulting impairment. A case example shows the divergent results following evaluation using the Injury Model (Fourth Edition) and the ROM Method (Fifth Edition) and concludes that revisions to the latter for rating permanent impairments of the spine often will lead to different results compared to using the Fourth Edition.

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