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ICD-9 versus ICD-10

According to the American Medical Association (AMA) ICD-9-CM contains approximately 13,000 codes. ICD-10, both the clinical modification (ICD-10-CM) for diagnosis coding, and the procedural coding system (ICD-10-PCS) will contain 68,000 available codes. Many of these additional codes fall within ICD-10-PCS, which will replace Volume 3 of ICD-9-CM, but the diagnosis coding methodology will also be affected.


ICD-9-CM codes are between three and five characters in length. ICD-10-CM code are between three and seven characters. Most ICD-9 codes are composed of numbers only, except codes that start with E, which are used to describe causes of injury, and codes that start with V, which are used to describe conditions that are not diseases or symptoms that lead to medical encounters. In ICD-10, all codes will start with a letter, to identify where in the coding system a described condition or procedure falls within the overall coding methodology.


The ICD-9 coding system has little room for new codes. ICD-10 offers more room to add new codes within the established framework. ICD-9 contains many vague codes, while ICD-10 allows for more specific codes. Granularity of reported data is an important concern when tracking the utilization and effectiveness of medical services. It is expected that the implementation of ICD-10 will allow for more transparency, and for more accurate reporting of procedures, diseases, and symptoms, than has been possible before. Finally, ICD-9 does not capture the laterality of a condition or procedure. ICD-10 contains digits appended to codes to convey whether a condition happened on the right side or the left side. This creates transparency, so that third-party payers and statisticians can recognize a new injury from a pre-existing condition.