Abstract

The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, presents an impairment paradox: Single-level fusions rating using the Diagnosis-related estimates (DRE) method often result in higher impairment values than do multilevel cervical spine fusions. In the AMA Guides, Chapter 15, The Spine, the definition of Cervical Category IV (alteration of motion segment integrity or bilateral or multilevel radiculopathy) changed from the definition in the fourth edition for Cervicothoracic Category IV (loss of motion segment integrity or multilevel neurological compromise) because of changes in the definition of “alteration of motion segment integrity,” which now also includes surgical arthrodesis. This applies only for single-level fusions because the AMA Guides, states the range-of-motion (ROM) method is used in situations when “there is alteration of motion segment integrity (eg, fusions).” The AMA Guides, Fourth Edition, rated impairment on the basis of the injury, not the surgical procedure, and the maximum whole person permanent impairment for a patient with a single-level, single-sided cervical radiculopathy who had a discectomy and fusion would be 15%, but the minimum award for a similar patient rated using the DRE method is 25%. The author reports that, for the reasons outlined, evaluators should rate all cervical fusions, including single-level fusions, using the ROM method.

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