Coding the late effects of a cerebrovascular accident (CVA, or stroke) differs from the process you use to report late effects of most other injuries and illnesses. The secret is to select one code from ICD-9's 438 series to describe both the late effect from the CVAand the cause of the late effect.
Stroke Coding Is an Exception to the Rule
Coding for CVApatients deviates from the general rule on coding late effects, says Julie Jarvis, CPC, owner of Underwood Billing, a coding and billing firm in Orlando, Fla. Coders are familiar with listing two codes the residual effect and the cause of the condition on the claim form when coding late effects, but this isn't correct when stroke causes the late effects.
The ICD-9 manual includes a separate section (438.x) that lists the late effects of cerebrovascular disease. These codes, such as 438.11 (Aphasia as late effect of cerebrovascular disease), describe both the residual condition and the cause.
A late effect is a residual condition that a patient still has after the acute phase of an injury or illness has ended. Examples of late effects from a CVAinclude speech deficits (438.1x) or paralysis (438.2x-438.5x).
Physiatrists normally use these codes in two situations:
1. The CVApatient sees the physician for a late effect-related complaint. In this case, you should code the late effect as the primary diagnosis. For example, a patient sees the physiatrist concerning continued arm paralysis three months after a CVA. Use 438.30 (Late effects of cerebrovascular disease; monoplegia of upper limb affecting unspecified side).
2. The physician admits the patient for treatment of another CVA. In this scenario, code the current CVAfirst, followed by the appropriate late effects code. This identifies those deficits that relate to the present CVAand those that associate with pre-existing conditions.
For example, the physician admits a patient experiencing acute cerebral thrombosis. The patient previously had a stroke, which left her with impaired speech. Code the current condition first, says Jarvis, using 434.0x (Cerebral thrombosis), and add 438.12 (Late effects of cerebrovascular disease; dysphasia) as a secondary diagnosis. If the patient has no residual problems from the first CVA, report V12.59 (Personal history of certain other diseases of circulatory system; other) as the second diagnosis, according to Section 1.7 of ICD-9.
Do not use late effects codes when reporting a patient's hospital discharge after stroke treatment, Jarvis says. Instead, you should report 436 (Acute, but ill-defined, cerebrovascular disease) to describe the CVA along with the ICD-9 codes that denote the impairments that the patient still has.
For example, if the patient is paralyzed on [...]