How to Measure and Report Ratable Atrophy According to the AMA Guides, 5th Edition

If you’re a medical provider, then at some point in your career you will probably observe atrophy in one of your workers’ compensation cases. We hope this post is useful for you if one of your patients has atrophy that is related to a work injury.

Muscle atrophy is a medical term that is used to describe the loss of muscle size or mass when concerning orthopedic injuries or conditions. For more on the definition of atrophy, click here.

Today, we’re discussing ratable atrophy, as defined by the AMA Guides, 5th Edition.

According to Chapter 15, The Spine (page 382), ratable atrophy in the spine requires a 1 centimeter (cm) difference or greater in the arm, forearm or leg (calf), and 2 cm or greater in the thigh.

Chapter 17, The Lower Extremities, page 530 Table 17-6 allows rating values to be assigned for 1 cm or grater for the thigh or calf.

Make sure muscle atrophy measurements are reported in centimeters. If they are entered in inches, convert and round the value to the nearest centimeter (cm).

Make sure that ratings assigned for muscle atrophy are reported and provided for the injured side.

Make sure that you’re using the correct chapter (Chapter 15, The Spine or Chapter 17, The Lower Extremities) when impairment values for thigh muscle atrophy are being assigned. If you don’t use the correct chapter of the AMA Guides when assigning ratable atrophy, then the impairment rating will be wrong!

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