Validation of ICD-9-CM coding algorithm for improved identification of hypoglycemia visits

BMC Endocr Disord. 2008 Apr 1:8:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-6823-8-4.


Background: Accurate identification of hypoglycemia cases by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes will help to describe epidemiology, monitor trends, and propose interventions for this important complication in patients with diabetes. Prior hypoglycemia studies utilized incomplete search strategies and may be methodologically flawed. We sought to validate a new ICD-9-CM coding algorithm for accurate identification of hypoglycemia visits.

Methods: This was a multicenter, retrospective cohort study using a structured medical record review at three academic emergency departments from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. We prospectively derived a coding algorithm to identify hypoglycemia visits using ICD-9-CM codes (250.3, 250.8, 251.0, 251.1, 251.2, 270.3, 775.0, 775.6, and 962.3). We confirmed hypoglycemia cases by chart review identified by candidate ICD-9-CM codes during the study period. The case definition for hypoglycemia was documented blood glucose 3.9 mmol/l or emergency physician charted diagnosis of hypoglycemia. We evaluated individual components and calculated the positive predictive value.

Results: We reviewed 636 charts identified by the candidate ICD-9-CM codes and confirmed 436 (64%) cases of hypoglycemia by chart review. Diabetes with other specified manifestations (250.8), often excluded in prior hypoglycemia analyses, identified 83% of hypoglycemia visits, and unspecified hypoglycemia (251.2) identified 13% of hypoglycemia visits. The absence of any predetermined co-diagnosis codes improved the positive predictive value of code 250.8 from 62% to 92%, while excluding only 10 (2%) true hypoglycemia visits. Although prior analyses included only the first-listed ICD-9 code, more than one-quarter of identified hypoglycemia visits were outside this primary diagnosis field. Overall, the proposed algorithm had 89% positive predictive value (95% confidence interval, 86-92) for detecting hypoglycemia visits.

Conclusion: The proposed algorithm improves on prior strategies to identify hypoglycemia visits in administrative data sets and will enhance the ability to study the epidemiology and design interventions for this important complication of diabetes care.