Objective: To describe the uniform diagnostic coding system used in Australia and New Zealand to code reasons for admitting children to intensive care, and to highlight the benefits of a uniform approach.
Design: International, multicentre, observational study.
Setting: A registry of children admitted to intensive care in Australia and New Zealand.
Patients: The records of 19249 children admitted to intensive care between 1997 and 2000 were analysed.
Measurements and results: The system was designed empirically using expert consensus. The principal diagnosis or main reason for intensive care admission and up to five associated diagnoses are coded. The system has four levels of coding: non-operative or post-procedural admission, diagnostic group, specific condition, and for injury and infection the aetiological factor. The main reason for intensive care admission was coded in all patient records, however, for 11.1% of records the code was limited to diagnostic group with the specific condition coded as "other diagnosis". Two or more diagnoses were coded in 61% of records. The most frequent reason for admission was asthma.
Conclusions: The major advantage of the system is that units in the region use the same method of coding. A uniform international approach to coding reasons for admitting children to intensive care is needed.