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How to code unilateral and bilateral diagnosis codes In ICD 10

Basics about ICD 10 codes

As we know with the use of ICD 10, we will have all the alphanumeric ICD codes. ICD 10 is very specific codes because of which the numbers of ICD codes have also increased. The biggest difference between icd 9 and icd 10 is the use of alphabets in icd 10, which was not used in icd 9. Now, since we are using number as well as alphabets together, we will have more specific codes for each specific anatomic site. I will just share my few basic knowledge in how to remember to code for unilateral and bilateral diagnosis codes in ICD 10.

How to code unilateral and bilateral diagnosis codes In ICD 10

ICD 9 versus ICD 10 diagnosis codes

In ICD 9, we use to code only one icd code for unilateral or bilateral diagnosis. So, for example if we have pain in right arm or left arm we use to code only one code 729.5. So, here we can see the ICD 9 code is used for more than anatomic location. But, if you see in ICD 10, we have a separate code for right, left and bilateral arm pain. In addition, we have a separate unspecified ICD 10, if the report does not mention RT or LT arm pain. Therefore, here the number of code has increased significantly in ICD10. This example will give you clear idea how the number of ICD 10 has increased and the specificity of diagnosis codes. So, let us checkout how the above example will be coded in ICD 9 and ICD 10.

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ICD 9 code

ICD 10 codes
M79.601 pain in Right arm
M79.602 pain in Left arm
M79.603 pain in arm unspecified
 M79.621 Pain in right upper arm
M79.622 Pain in Left upper arm
M79.629 Pain in unspecified upper arm
M79.631 Pain in right forearm
M79.632 Pain in left forearm
M79.639 Pain in unspecified forearm

Easy technique to learn ICD 10 codes

Now, with the above example we get clear idea that there are different ICD 10 codes for each side of the extremity. Now, you see that for arm pain we have separate ICD 10 codes for left, right and unspecified arm. Here, the number 1 on sixth place denotes the right side and number 2 denotes the left side. If there is, no specified RT or LT we have also have an unspecified code with number 3 or 9 on sixth place. This is the easy way if medical coders want to learn the ICD 10 codes fast. If they number which denote right or left side of the extremity it will be easy to locate ICD 10 codes. Because of number of codes, we have to learn the basics of ICD 10 as soon as possible to get to use to these codes. Now, I hope next time you can easily distinguish between right or left side of the extremity for a diagnosis ICD 10 codes.

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