CODING NOTES: Tips for coding Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) in ICD-10

CODING NOTES: Tips for coding Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) in ICD-10

By Debbie Ploschnitznig, CRN-C

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) describes the symptoms of pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine. Simply put, degenerative disc disease occurs when an intervertebral disc loses its integrity, eventually causing pain. The condition is most often caused by age-related deterioration of the spine. The discs in the spine support the vertebrae, allowing the vertebrae to move and hinge without colliding with each other. Eventually, the loss of elasticity in the outer layer of the disc coupled with chronic pressure on the disc from the surrounding vertebrae may cause disc damage, including herniated discs, bulging discs, disc protrusions, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. However, identifying the damage is not sufficient for a coder to code to the highest level of specificity. The provider must document clearly and concisely the diagnosis of DDD and the location on the spine for the diagnosis to be properly coded.

Debbie Ploschnitznig, CRN-C

In ICD-10, there are different codes for cervical, lumbar and thoracic degenerative disc disease. Here are some generally used ICD-10 codes for Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD):

M50.30: Other cervical disc degeneration, unspecified cervical region.
M50.31: Other cervical disc degeneration, high cervical region
M50.32: Other cervical disc degeneration, mid-cervical region
M50.33: Other cervical disc degeneration, cervicothoracic region
M51.34: Other intervertebral disc degeneration, thoracic region
M51.35: Other intervertebral disc degeneration, thoracolumbar region
M51.36: Other intervertebral disc degeneration, lumbar region
M51.37: Other intervertebral disc degeneration, lumbosacral region

There are numerous spine-related codes available in the ICD-10-CM Tabular List, but each category contains nuances and variables that providers and coders should consider as they learn to document and compare the code options. While code selection is important, documentation is ultimately king, and each diagnosis must be properly supported in order to justify reimbursement.