Texas Workers’ Compensation: DRE Category III (Radiculopathy)

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Spinal injuries for cervical, thoracic and lumbar which in radiculopathy may be eligible for a DRE Category III.  Radiculopathy is a condition due to a compressed nerve in the spine that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the course of the nerve.

To qualify a person must have an ongoing minor neurologic impairment low the lower extremity related to cervical, thoracic or lumbar injury.  This is documented through examination of reflexes and findings of unilateral atrophy above or below the knee related to no other condition, and it may be verified by electrodiagnostic testing.  The injured worker must have one of the two following findings:

  1. Decreased circumference (atrophy)  Spine-injury-related circumferential measurements show loss of girth of 2 cm or more above or below the elbow or knee.  The atrophy cannot be explained by non-spine-related problems or contralateral sypertrophy, as might occur with a dominatnt limb or greatly increased use of a limb.  The neurologic impairment may be verified by differentiator 4 below.

2. Electrodiagnostic evidence Unequivocal electrodiagnostic evidence exists of acute nerve root compromise, such as multiple positive sharp waves or fibrillation potentials; or H-wave absence or delay greater than 3 mm/sec; or chronic changes such as polyphasic waves in peripheral muscles.

If a person receives a DRE Category III, that is equal to a 15% Impairment Rating for the Cervical spine and a 10% Impairment Rating for the Thoracic or Lumbar spine.

Texas Workers’ Comp Neck & Back Injuries “DRE Category II”

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As explained last time, Texas Workers’ Compensation neck and back injuries that receive a DRE category I for impairment are considered to have no impairment at all.  The DRE category II is for minor impairments to the neck or back.

To qualify for a DRE category II, the injured worker should have a clinical history and examination findings that are compatible with a specific injury or illness.  The findings may include significant intermittent or continuous muscle guarding that has been observed and documented by a physician, non-uniform loss of range of motion, or nonverifiable radicular complaints.  There is no objective sign of radiculopathy and no loss of structural integrity.

Under the Texas Workers’ Compensation system, a DRE category II entitles an injured worker to a 5% whole body impairment.  This translates to 15 weeks of impairment income benefits.

Morris Law Firm, (214)357-1782, email at info@themorrisfirm.net.