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The transition in 2015 to the Tenth Revision of the International Classification of Disease, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) in the US led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to propose a surveillance definition of traumatic brain injury (TBI) utilizing ICD-10-CM codes. The CDC's proposed surveillance definition excludes "unspecified injury of the head," previously included in the ICD-9-CM TBI surveillance definition. The study purpose was to evaluate the impact of the TBI surveillance definition change on monthly rates of TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits in Colorado from 2012 to 2017. The monthly rate of TBI-related ED visits was 55.6 visits per 100,000 persons in January 2012. This rate in the transition month to ICD-10-CM (October 2015) decreased by 41 visits per 100,000 persons (p-value < 0.0001), compared to September 2015, and remained low through December 2017, due to the exclusion of "unspecified injury of head" (ICD-10-CM code S09.90) in the proposed TBI definition. The average increase in the rate was 0.33 visits per month (p < 0.01) prior to October 2015, and 0.04 visits after. When S09.90 was included in the model, the monthly TBI rate in Colorado remained smooth from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM and the transition was no longer significant (p = 0.97). The reduction in the monthly TBI-related ED visit rate resulted from the CDC TBI surveillance definition excluding unspecified head injury, not necessarily the coding transition itself. Public health practitioners should be aware that the definition change could lead to a drastic reduction in the magnitude and trend of TBI-related ED visits, which could affect decisions regarding the allocation of TBI resources. This study highlights a challenge in creating a standardized set of TBI ICD-10-CM codes for public health surveillance that provides comparable yet clinically relevant estimates that span the ICD transition.


Lauren Alexis De Crescenzo, Barbara Alison Gabella, Jewell Johnson. Interrupted time series design to evaluate ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM coding changes on trends in Colorado emergency department visits related to traumatic brain injury. Injury epidemiology. 2021 Apr 19;8(1):15

PMID: 33866966

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