Emergency Surgery Needs Distinct Code Registry, Researchers Say

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , February 8, 2012

"The more we look at emergency general surgery,... it looks like this  condition or problem is a lot more than just what anatomical problem need to be fixed; these are very different populations," says study author Preston Miller, MD, a surgeon and Wake Forest associate professor in Winston-Salem. "Those patients behave a lot differently than the patients who have the same operations on an elective basis."

Miller, a trauma and acute care surgeon, says he "brings the eyes of trauma to this topic, and it seems like a natural fit."

In an article this week in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Miller and colleagues suggest that medical centers throughout the country start looking at outcomes of emergency surgeries as their own category, separate from scheduled surgeries. The idea is that emergency surgery patients that are not trauma patients (victims of violence or unintentional injuries) should be categorized with their own ICD-9 code registry.

"Trauma is easy, because a) everyone knows what trauma is; it falls into a certain set of ICD-9 codes," Miller says.

"That's not true with emergency surgery, where the codes are all over the map.  One of the things we hope to do with the development of this registry is propose, and then test a system to define what [codes constitute] emergency general surgery, and then begin to track those codes."

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