ICD-10-CM Guidelines for Coding and Reporting FY 2020 – Respiratory System

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), two departments within the U.S. Federal Government’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide the guidelines for coding and reporting using the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM). These guidelines should be used as a companion document to the official version of the ICD-10- CM. These guidelines have been approved by the four organizations that make up the Cooperating Parties for the ICD-10-CM: the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), CMS, and NCHS.

These guidelines are a set of rules that have been developed to accompany and complement the official conventions and instructions provided within the ICD-10-CM itself. The instructions and conventions of the classification take precedence over guidelines. These guidelines are based on the coding and sequencing instructions in the Tabular List and Alphabetic Index of ICD-10-CM but provide additional instruction. Adherence to these guidelines when assigning ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes is required under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

These guidelines have been developed to assist both the healthcare provider and the coder in identifying those diagnoses that are to be reported. The importance of consistent, complete documentation in the medical record cannot be overemphasized. Without such documentation, accurate coding cannot be achieved. The entire record should be reviewed to determine the specific reason for the encounter and the conditions treated.  In addition to general coding guidelines, there are guidelines for specific diagnoses and/or conditions in the classification.

Diseases of the Respiratory System (J00-J99)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] and Asthma

    • Acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive bronchitis and asthma The codes in categories J44 and J45 distinguish between uncomplicated cases and those in acute exacerbation. An acute exacerbation is a worsening or decompensation of a chronic condition. An acute exacerbation is not equivalent to an infection superimposed on a chronic condition, though an exacerbation may be triggered by an infection.

Acute Respiratory Failure

    • Acute respiratory failure as principal diagnosis:

      A code from subcategory J96.0, Acute respiratory failure, or subcategory J96.2, Acute and chronic respiratory failure, may be assigned as a principal diagnosis when it is the condition established after study to be chiefly responsible for occasioning the admission to the hospital, and the selection is supported by the Alphabetic Index and Tabular List. However, chapter-specific coding guidelines (such as obstetrics, poisoning, HIV, newborn) that provide sequencing direction take precedence.

    • Acute respiratory failure as secondary diagnosis:

      Respiratory failure may be listed as a secondary diagnosis if it occurs after admission, or if it is present on admission, but does not meet the definition of principal diagnosis.

    • Sequencing of acute respiratory failure and another acute condition:

      When a patient is admitted with respiratory failure and another acute condition, (e.g., myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, aspiration pneumonia), the principal diagnosis will not be the same in every situation. This applies to whether the other acute condition is a respiratory or nonrespiratory condition. The selection of the principal diagnosis will be dependent on the circumstances of admission. If both the respiratory failure and the other acute condition are equally responsible for occasioning the admission to the hospital, and there are no chapter-specific sequencing rules, the guideline regarding two or more diagnoses that equally meet the definition for principal diagnosis (Section II, C.) may be applied in these situations. If the documentation is not clear as to whether acute respiratory failure and another condition are equally responsible for occasioning the admission, query the provider for clarification.

Influenza due to certain identified influenza viruses:

Code only confirmed cases of influenza due to certain identified influenza viruses (category J09), and due to other identified influenza virus (category J10). This is an exception to the hospital inpatient guideline Section II, H. (Uncertain Diagnosis).

In this context, “confirmation” does not require documentation of positive laboratory testing specifically for avian or other novel influenza A or other identified influenza virus. However, coding should be based on the provider’s diagnostic statement that the patient has avian influenza, or other novel influenza A, for category J09, or has another particular identified strain of influenza, such as H1N1 or H3N2, but not identified as novel or variant, for category J10.

If the provider records “suspected” or “possible” or “probable” avian influenza, or novel influenza, or other identified influenza, then the appropriate influenza code from category J11, Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus, should be assigned. A code from category J09, Influenza due to certain identified influenza viruses, should not be assigned nor should a code from category J10, Influenza due to other identified influenza virus.

Ventilator-associated Pneumonia

    • Documentation of Ventilator-associated Pneumonia:

      As with all procedural or postprocedural complications, code assignment is based on the provider’s documentation of the relationship between the condition and the procedure. Code J95.851, Ventilator-associated pneumonia, should be assigned only when the provider has documented ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). An additional code to identify the organism (e.g., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, code B96.5) should also be assigned. Do not assign an additional code from categories J12-J18 to identify the type of pneumonia. Code J95.851 should not be assigned for cases where the patient has pneumonia and is on a mechanical ventilator and the provider has not specifically stated that the pneumonia is ventilator-associated pneumonia. If the documentation is unclear as to whether the patient has pneumonia that is a complication attributable to the mechanical ventilator, query the provider.

    • Ventilator-associated Pneumonia Develops after Admission:

      A patient may be admitted with one type of pneumonia (e.g., code J13, Pneumonia due to Streptococcus pneumonia) and subsequently develop VAP. In this instance, the principal diagnosis would be the appropriate code from categories J12- J18 for pneumonia diagnosed at the time of admission. Code J95.851, Ventilator-associated pneumonia, would be assigned as an additional diagnosis when the provider has also documented the presence of ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Diagnostic and procedural codes are connected to nearly every system and business process in health plans and provider organizations, including reimbursement and claim processes. For smoother claim processing and reduced denials, equal attention to diagnosis coding is important. MedicalBillersandCoders (MBC) systematically connects diagnosis and procedural codes ensuring timely payments from insurance carriers. To know more about our medical coding and billing services you contact us at 888-357-3226/info@medicalbillersandcoders.com


International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM)