Wednesday, July 20, 2011

31 Flavors of Ice Cream, 31 Root Operations in ICD-10-PCS

Sunday I decided to give up ice cream. Not forever, just for a few weeks or so while I try to kick what has become a rather troublesome sugar addiction. It turns out Sunday was not a good day to give up ice cream because that was National Ice Cream Day. How that very important holiday was omitted from my Outlook calendar when I imported all the US holidays, I'll never know, so I will have to be more watchful next year. I am proud, albeit unsatisfied, to tell you I stuck to my guns and didn't celebrate National Ice Cream Day this year. There's always 2012!

You might be laughing right now, but ice cream is a very serious matter to me. When asked what my favorite ice cream is, I will inevitably ask you "from where?" and then launch into a tirade about how the manufacturer is key in determining what flavor to eat and continue with a discussion about proper chocolate-to-ice-cream ratio that would make Sally Allbright from When Harry Met Sally proud. I consider myself a bit if a connoisseur, which my mother tells me goes all the way back to that first ice cream cone I "shared" with her. The words "death grip" come to mind when I think of her telling the story. In short, she didn't get any ice cream that day and so began my love affair with the creamy treat.

Monday morning, ice cream ban still in full swing, and ready to start another work week, I shuffled into ICD-10 Central (aka, my office), where it's quite obvious there is some serious ICD-10 work going on: the two large flipchart posters on the wall listing the root operations, stacks of ICD-10 books from current and past years, and a hot pink post-it stuck to my July (national ice cream month!) calendar stating quite simply: "31 Flavors of ice cream - 31 Root Operations."

The ice cream post-it is the only way I can remember how many root operations there are in ICD-10-PCS. I heard a speaker once tell the audience to take a root operation a month and study it in preparation for ICD-10-PCS and then she said there weren't enough months before implementation. And sure enough, here we are in July 2011 and the October 1, 2013 deadline is looming ever closer - only a couple years away.

When I tried to relay that story to one of my audiences, I decided it was pathetic I couldn't tell anyone off the top of my head how many root operations there were. So thank you, Baskin Robbins, for helping me out with this one and loaning me your 31 Flavors terminology. Even though at last count there were more than 31 flavors behind your counter. And even though, in my mind, there is only one flavor of Baskin Robbins ice cream (accolades for proper chocolate-to-ice-cream ratio!).

So there you have it. There are 31 root operations in ICD-10-PCS that hospital inpatient coders must become familiar with. It will be quite impossible to code without knowing the root operations. For ease of use as I have sat down with medical records and began coding my little ICD-10 heart out, I posted the wall charts right in front of my desk, arranged in categories I wish I could take credit for creating:

Root operations that take out some or all of a body part:
  • Excision
  • Resection
  • Detachment
  • Destruction
  • Extraction
Root operations that take out solids, fluids, or gases:
  • Drainage
  • Extirpation
  • Fragmentation
Root operations that involve cutting or separation:
  • Division
  • Release
Root operations that involve putting in or putting back or moving some or all of a body part:
  • Transplantation
  • Reattachment
  • Transfer
  • Reposition
Root operations that alter the diameter or route of a tubular body part:
  • Restriction
  • Occlusion
  • Dilation
  • Bypass
Root operations that always involve devices:
  • Insertion
  • Replacement
  • Supplement
  • Change
  • Removal
  • Revision
Root operations that involve examination only:
  • Inspection
  • Map
Root operations that involve other repairs:
  • Control
  • Repair
Root operations with other objectives:
  • Fusion
  • Alteration
  • Creation
Some root operations have very limited use: mapping is used only for cardiac electrophysiology mapping; the root operation creation has only two possible uses - gender reassignment from male to female or vice versa. Some are more commonplace: excision is removal of part of a body part while resection is removal of the entire body part. That contradicts the way we code today where excision is a complete removal.

But don't worry - this alien new coding system comes with its own set of guidelines that define these root operations and tell you when to code out separate components of a procedure. For example, there is a hierarchy for spinal fusions that utilize bone graft, internal fixation, and cages so you only end up with a single code. On the other hand, placement of a completely embedded vascular infusion device requires two codes: one for catheterizing the vessel, and one for placement of a subcutaneous port.

If you're wondering how to get a leg up on ICD-10, don't bother learning to code it right now. We've all heard that, right? You will forget it unless you use it every day. But you can and should start reading the coding guidelines and become familiar with the table format of ICD-10-PCS. It's different for everyone who codes now (that was spy code for all you novices looking for a level playing field!). ICD-10-PCS coding will identify a whole new population of coders with the skill to properly categorize root operations. It will mean knowing not only the name of the procedure, but what that procedure is trying to accomplish and how it's performed. So brushing up on surgical procedures is a great way to bide your time until it is time to get moving with hands-on training.

So are you ready to test out those 31 flavors of root operations? I will start posting some teasers for you and you can test your ability to name that root operation. If you would like to download the latest version (2012) of ICD-10-PCS, the files are free at CMS' website - guidelines included! Check it out here at: While you start reading, I am going to go hide my car keys and my Ben and Jerry's pint cozy. I suddenly have a craving for ice cream. Weird.