[Continued from the January/February 2004 issue of The Guides Newsletter.] To understand discrepancies in reviewers’ ratings of impairments based on different editions of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), users can usefully study the history of the revisions as successive editions attempted to provide a comprehensive, valid, reliable, unbiased, and evidence-based system. Some shortcomings of earlier editions have been addressed in the AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, but problems remain with each edition, largely because of the limited scientific evidence available. In the context of the history of the different editions of the AMA Guides and their development, the authors discuss and contextualize a number of key terms and principles including the following: definitions of impairment and normal; activities of daily living; maximum medical improvement; impairment percentages; conversion of regional impairments; combining impairments; pain and other subjective complaints; physician judgment; and causation analysis; finally, the authors note that impairment is not synonymous with disability or work interference. The AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, contrasts impairment evaluations and independent medical evaluations (this was not done in previous editions) and discusses impairment evaluations, rules for evaluations, and report standards. Upper extremity and lower extremity impairment evaluations are discussed in terms of clinical assessments and rating processes, analyzing important changes between editions and problematic areas (eg, complex regional pain syndrome).

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