Migration to the ICD-10 coding system: A primer for spine surgeons (Part 1)

Gazanfar Rahmathulla, H. Gordon Deen, Judith A. Dokken, Stephen M. Pirris, Mark A. Pichelmann, Eric W. Nottmeier, Ronald Reimer, Robert E. Wharen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: On 1 October 2015, a new federally mandated system goes into effect requiring the replacement of the International Classification of Disease-version 9-Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) with ICD-10-CM. These codes are required to be used for reimbursement and to substantiate medical necessity. ICD-10 is composite with as many as 141,000 codes, an increase of 712% when compared to ICD-9. Methods: Execution of the ICD-10 system will require significant changes in the clinical administrative and hospital-based practices. Through the transition, diminished productivity and practice revenue can be anticipated, the impacts of which the spine surgeon can minimizeby appropriate education and planning. Results: The advantages of the new system include increased clarity and more accurate definitions reflecting patient condition, information relevant to ambulatory and managed care encounters, expanded injury codes, laterality, specificity, precise data for safety and compliance reporting, data mining for research, and finally, enabling pay-for-performance programs. The disadvantages include the cost per physician, training administrative staff, revenue loss during the learning curve, confusion, the need to upgrade hardware along with software, and overall expense to the healthcare system. Conclusions: With the deadline rapidly approaching, gaps in implementation result in delayed billing, delayed or diminished reimbursements, and absence of quality and outcomes data. It is thereby essential for spine surgeons to understand their role in transitioning to this new environment. Part I of this article discusses the background, coding changes, and costs as well as reviews the salient features of ICD-10 in spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S185-S191
JournalSurgical Neurology International
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Diagnostic coding systems
  • ICD-10
  • implementation
  • practice management
  • spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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