Objectives: Soft-tissue sarcoma (STS) is a heterogeneous group of rare solid tumors that arise from various soft tissues in the body, such as muscle, fat, nerves, and blood vessels. Current International Classification of Diseases (ICD) coding systems include a set of nonspecific codes for malignancies of connective and soft tissue (ICD-9-CM code 171 and ICD-10-CM code C49). The goal of this study was to evaluate the use of these codes for health services research involving patients with a diagnosis of this rare malignancy.
Methods: Two databases were utilized to explore ICD coding for STS: claims data from Truven MarketScan and electronic medical records (EMRs) from Flatiron Health. Eligible patients from claims data were those with at least two ICD-9-CM codes of 171.x on two different days between July 1, 2004, and March 30, 2014. The treatment patterns of these cases were evaluated for consistency with known therapeutic approaches for STS. Eligible patients from the Flatiron EMR system were those who received olaratumab (a drug indicated only for use in patients diagnosed with STS) after its US Food and Drug Administration approval in October 2016 through the end of the data set (November 2017). ICD-10-CM codes were evaluated for this known STS cohort.
Results: In claims data, 4,159 patients were eligible for inclusion. Although national treatment guidelines include only a limited number of drugs used to treat STS, 98 unique anticancer drugs were identified as being used to treat patients in a claims data cohort. Only 7.7 percent of patients had claims for doxorubicin-based therapy and 3.8 percent had claims for ifosfamide-based therapy as initial treatment for STS, despite these being a standard of care. In the EMR data, 350 patients were eligible; only 170 patients (48.6 percent) had any evidence in the database of a connective or soft-tissue ICD-10-CM malignancy code within 60 days before or after initiation of olaratumab.
Conclusions: ICD coding for STS using the "Malignant neoplasm of connective and soft tissue" code is not reliable as a method to identify patients diagnosed with STS. Although codes reflecting the primary site of disease may have clinical relevance, lack of consistency in ICD coding for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease is a limiting factor in the ability to conduct real-world observational research of this rare disease. In the absence of consistent use of this code, an algorithm needs to be developed and validated to accurately identify patients with STS in these databases.
Keywords: ICD-9-CM; real-world data; retrospective study; sarcoma.
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