ICD-10 codes used to identify adverse drug events in administrative data: a systematic review

J Am Med Inform Assoc. May-Jun 2014;21(3):547-57. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2013-002116. Epub 2013 Nov 12.


Background: Adverse drug events, the unintended and harmful effects of medications, are important outcome measures in health services research. Yet no universally accepted set of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) revision 10 codes or coding algorithms exists to ensure their consistent identification in administrative data. Our objective was to synthesize a comprehensive set of ICD-10 codes used to identify adverse drug events.

Methods: We developed a systematic search strategy and applied it to five electronic reference databases. We searched relevant medical journals, conference proceedings, electronic grey literature and bibliographies of relevant studies, and contacted content experts for unpublished studies. One author reviewed the titles and abstracts for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two authors reviewed eligible full-text articles and abstracted data in duplicate. Data were synthesized in a qualitative manner.

Results: Of 4241 titles identified, 41 were included. We found a total of 827 ICD-10 codes that have been used in the medical literature to identify adverse drug events. The median number of codes used to search for adverse drug events was 190 (IQR 156-289) with a large degree of variability between studies in the numbers and types of codes used. Authors commonly used external injury (Y40.0-59.9) and disease manifestation codes. Only two papers reported on the sensitivity of their code set.

Conclusions: Substantial variability exists in the methods used to identify adverse drug events in administrative data. Our work may serve as a point of reference for future research and consensus building in this area.

Keywords: Administrative Data; Comparative Effectiveness and Safety Research; Drug Safety; International Classification of Diseases; Patient Safety.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • International Classification of Diseases*