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James B. Talmage
and
Mohammed Ranavaya

Abstract

The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, changes the definition of “normal” (ie, the process of differentiating between an individual whose lung function is “normal” as opposed to an individual with Class 2 respiratory impairment) because the definition has changed over time. For example, the AMA Guides, First Edition (1971), used from the VA-Army 1961 Cooperative Study to construct tables of “normal” or “predicted” values during spirometry. Regression equations were used to calculate the predicted forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in the first second, and mandatory minute ventilation for men and women, by age and height. The Second Edition (1984) used data from a pulmonary function study in 251 healthy white individuals who lived 1400 meters above sea level (Utah), more than 90% of whom were members of the Mormon church (a very narrow segment of the American population). The AMA Guides, Third and Fourth Editions, continued to rely on the study just cited and made a distinction between “normal” and “mildly impaired.” The AMA Guides, Fifth Edition, uses the four classes of respiratory impairment and the same whole person impairment ratings for each class, unchanged from the Fourth Edition. The Fifth Edition has reverted to using the 95% confidence interval to determine “normal,” so that the same individual who, under the Fourth Edition guidelines was up to 25% impaired, would become normal under the pulmonary impairment guides of the Fifth Edition.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
James B. Talmage
and
Mohammed Ranavaya

Abstract

The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fifth Edition, uses approaches to respiratory system impairment rating that are similar to those of previous editions, with two significant changes: First, criteria for asthma impairment were updated to incorporate guidelines recently published by the American Thoracic Society (ATS), and, second, respiratory impairment criteria now incorporate the lower limit of normal for forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide. In 1993, the ATS published Guidelines for the Evaluation of Impairment/Disability in Patients with Asthma that recommended evaluating three parameters: degree of airflow limitation (postbronchodilator FEV1); the degree of reversibility of the airflow limitation; and the minimum amount of medication needed to maintain maximal medical improvement (MMI). The ATS Guidelines contained a scoring system that was used to place the individual into one of six impairment classes. The Fifth Edition uses the same method of scoring the three clinical parameters and using the point score to determine which of the four impairment classes best describes the impairment. The Fifth Edition discussion of occupational asthma indicates the importance of removing the individual from further exposure to the sensitizing agent; MMI usually occurs within 2 years after removal from exposure.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Jay Blaisdell
and
James B. Talmage

Abstract

The most common source of occupational skin disease is contact dermatitis, an inflammation caused by exposure to an allergen. Whenever possible, the evaluating physician should rely on objective evidence such as lichenification, excoriation, and hyperpigmentation rather than subjective complaints. Patch testing, biopsy, and sensory discrimination tests are reliable tools at the evaluating physician's disposal. Disfigurements of the face are rated using the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Sixth Edition, Section 11.3, The Face, and Chapter 8, The Skin, is used for all other skin impairments. The evaluating physician records the history of the injury, evaluates the patient, and, in consultation with Table 8-3, notes any objective clinical studies to diagnose the pathology. The functional history, physical examination findings, and diagnostic test findings values then are assigned using Table 8-2; the functional history acts as the key factor and determines the patient's impairment class, physical examination, and diagnostic test findings, each acting as non-key factors, or modifiers. Finally, the non-key factors are used to modify the impairment rating from its default value within its impairment class, and the result is the final skin impairment rating expressed as whole person impairment. Chapter 8 is used only rarely in impairment rating in workers’ compensation cases, and examiners should study the chapter carefully before using it.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Jay Blaisdell
and
James B. Talmage

Abstract

Like the diagnosis-based impairment (DBI) method and the range-of-motion (ROM) method for rating permanent impairment, the approach for rating compression or entrapment neuropathy in the upper extremity (eg, carpal tunnel syndrome [CTS]) is a separate and distinct methodology in the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Sixth Edition. Rating entrapment neuropathies is similar to the DBI method because the evaluator uses three grade modifiers (ie, test findings, functional history, and physical evaluation findings), but the way these modifiers are applied is different from that in the DBI method. Notably, the evaluator must have valid nerve conduction test results and cannot diagnose or rate nerve entrapment or compression without them; postoperative nerve conduction studies are not necessary for impairment rating purposes. The AMA Guides, Sixth Edition, uses criteria that match those established by the Normative Data Task Force and endorsed by the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM); evaluators should be aware of updated definitions of normal from AANEM. It is possible that some patients may be diagnosed with carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome for treatment but will not qualify for that diagnosis for impairment rating; evaluating physicians must be familiar with electrodiagnostic test results to interpret them and determine if they confirm to the criteria for conduction delay, conduction block, or axon loss; if this is not the case, the evaluator may use the DBI method with the diagnosis of nonspecific pain.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Christopher R. Brigham
and
James B. Talmage
in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Charles N. Brooks
and
James B. Talmage

Abstract

Meniscal tears and osteoarthritis (osteoarthrosis, degenerative arthritis, or degenerative joint disease) are two of the most common conditions involving the knee. This article includes definitions of apportionment and causes; presents a case report of initial and recurrent tears of the medial meniscus plus osteoarthritis (OA) in the medial compartment of the knee; and addresses questions regarding apportionment. The authors, experienced impairment raters who are knowledgeable regarding the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), show that, when instructions on impairment rating are incomplete, unclear, or inconsistent, interrater reliability diminishes (different physicians may derive different impairment estimates). Accurate apportionment of impairment is a demanding task that requires detailed knowledge of causation for the conditions in question; the mechanisms of injury or extent of exposures; prior and current symptoms, functional status, physical findings, and clinical study results; and use of the appropriate edition of the AMA Guides. Sometimes the available data are incomplete, requiring the rating physician to make assumptions. However, if those assumptions are reasonable and consistent with the medical literature and facts of the case, if the causation analysis is plausible, and if the examiner follows impairment rating instructions in the AMA Guides (or at least uses a rational and hence defensible method when instructions are suboptimal), the resulting apportionment should be credible.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
Craig Uejo
,
James Talmage
, and
Charles Brooks
in AMA Guides® Newsletter
James B. Talmage
and
J. Mark Melhorn

Abstract

This article responds to the previous article in this issue of The Guides Newsletter (Two-point Discrimination in the Use of Upper Extremity Nerve Function in the AMA Guides) and discusses why the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Sixth Edition, has chosen to retain the use of static two-point discrimination for both acute single incident digital nerve injury and for upper extremity focal entrapment neuropathy. The authors clarify that the AMA Guides, Sixth Edition does not use two-point discrimination as a diagnostic criterion for entrapment neuropathy such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead, it uses two-point discrimination as a criterion to judge severity, specifically to help select the proper integer for the rating to be assigned for the diagnosis determined by other criteria. Two-point testing is not sensitive but is specific to significant nerve impairment (ie, severity, not diagnosis), and the authors note its advantages of being familiar to most impairment examiners, having a basis in published literature, having variations of the testing protocol that help “objectify” the apparent sensory deficit, and correlating with severity. Thus, if a rating is to be done “according to the AMA Guides,” two-point discrimination remains a required and important part of assessment of the upper extremity neurologic impairment of the hand.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter
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Christopher R. Brigham
and
James B. Talmage
in AMA Guides® Newsletter