Reimbursement Advisor

Change has come again to ICD-9 diagnostic codes

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New codes were unveiled on October 1 to report elective cesarean delivery, ART pregnancy, and vaginal mesh complications, to name a few


Did you know? When October 1 rolled around a short time ago, so did new codes for you to learn in the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM).

If you consider that unpleasant news for your billing efforts, I also have what I consider good news: The 2012 fiscal year is the final year for changes to ICD-9-CM codes: On October 1, 2013, the nation switches to 10th Revision (that is, ICD-10-CM) codes. The National Center for Health Statistics has indicated that the only changes to ICD-9 codes permitted from now on are ones describing new diseases that require immediate reporting during this transition/freeze period.

This last set of changes isn’t as massive as what we saw in previous years. Nevertheless, the changes certainly enhance the ability of ObGyn practices to report the reasons for patient encounters.

The major gyn change this year involves reporting vaginal mesh complications. There are several new obstetric codes, too, to enhance reporting of cesarean delivery and management of high-risk OB conditions.

The new codes were added to the national code set on October 1. As in prior years, there is no grace period.

Changes to obstetric codes


Antiphospholipid syndrome and lupus anticoagulant are associated with complications of pregnancy that include fetal loss, fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia, thrombosis, and autoimmune thrombocytopenia. Until now, the obstetrician reporting 649.3x (Coagulation defects complicating pregnancy, childbirth, or the puerperium), had only two secondary code options to further describe the patient’s condition: 795.79, used to report a finding of antiphospholipid antibody in a blood specimen, and 289.81, antiphospholipid antibody with hypercoagulable state.

A new code, 286.53 (Antiphospholipid antibody with hemorrhagic disorder), provides a third option when reporting 649.3x.


Fertility clinics and physicians who specialize in the use of assisted reproductive technology requested a code to identify patients who have what is referred to (imprecisely) as a “false-positive pregnancy,” “chemical pregnancy,” or “biochemical pregnancy.” These terms do not, however, accurately describe a pregnancy achieved using hormone stimulation or other such “chemical” methods.

In some cases, of course, a woman’s pregnancy test comes back positive, indicating a serum human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) level, but, when she is followed with ultrasonography, no fetus is present—in effect, she has had an early miscarriage. But there has been no ICD-9 code to use at this stage that discriminates between confirmed ectopic pregnancy and confirmed miscarriage—only a code for a laboratory finding.

To improve the specificity of coding, therefore, and to track such pregnancies, existing code 631 (Other abnormal product of conception) has been expanded and divided in two:

631.0Inappropriate rise (decline) of quantitative hCG in early pregnancy
631.8Other abnormal products of conception

Documentation by the physician that signals that 631.0 should be reported might include a reference to biochemical pregnancy, chemical pregnancy, or an inappropriate level of quantitative hCG for gestational age in early pregnancy. For 631.8 to be reported, documentation might mention such findings as a “blighted ovum” or “fleshy mole.”

Note: Because of this code expansion, the three-digit code 631 will no longer be a valid code for billing purposes.


ACOG requested new codes for elective cesarean delivery before 39 weeks’ gestation—a scenario that is one of the new markers of quality of care. Whereas ICD-9 has two diagnosis codes that mention cesarean delivery (654.2x, [Previous cesarean delivery not otherwise specified] and 669.71 [Cesarean delivery, without mention of indication]), neither code captures a case in which a woman presents in labor at 37 to 38 weeks’ gestation and the physician determines that it is best to deliver at that time rather than try to take measures that will forestall delivery until the 39th week.

Although ICD-9 already also has a code for early onset of delivery (644.21), it applies only to pregnancies before 37 completed weeks.

The new codes are:

649.81Onset (spontaneous) of labor after 37 completed weeks of gestation but before 39 completed weeks’ gestation, with delivery by (planned) cesarean section, delivered, with or without mention of antepartum condition
649.82Onset (spontaneous) of labor after 37 completed weeks of gestation but before 39 completed weeks’ gestation, with delivery by (planned) cesarean section, delivered, with mention of postpartum complication

Note: The new code has two options for a fifth digit:

  • Reporting a fifth digit 1 indicates that the patient may, or may not, have had a complication in the antepartum period that is related to early onset of labor.
  • Reporting a fifth digit 2 indicates that the patient developed a complication after delivery (but before discharge) that is related to the delivery.

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