As coders, we're required to code based upon the physician's documentation, and not to read into what the physician has actually written.
Recently, we received the following question and follow up questions in the Coding@scanhealthplan.com
I would like to know some opinions regarding to coding the
following documentation by Physician: “ Vascular Dementia”.
Vascular dementia NOS is indexed to 290.40. I don’t
see any alternative code.
Then, we received a follow up:
Follow up Question:
In my opinion I’ll use 290.40 plus 437.0. Please
see instructional notes “ Use additional code to identify cerebral
atherosclerosis”. I need your opinion.
You only use an additional code if it’s documented. It’s not
something you automatically do. Based on your email, the physician only
documented vascular dementia. If he had said vascular dementia due to
cerebral atherosclerosis, then you would code it.
Use additional code, to identify manifestation, as:
kidney disease (585.1-585.9)
The instructional notes for 250.40 say:
But you don’t code all those things unless they are
I hope that clarifies.
In response, the questioner indicated that they planned on coding cerebral atherosclerosis (437.0) because:
"Vascular dementia, Arteriosclerotic Dementia, Multi-infarct
Dementia and Atherosclerotic disease are synonyms. In my opinion
the documentation of Vascular Dementia is the same as Atherosclerotic
Dementia or multi-infarct Dementia.
Please look Dementia
( see also Dementia, arteriosclerotic)"
I don't believe I did a good enough job explaining why you wouldn't code something not documented. But the reality is that cerebral arteriosclerosis is not the only cause of vascular dementia, although it may be the most common cause. Multi-infarct dementia (MID), due to multiple strokes or TIAs, or mixed type due to MID and Alzheimers, or many
conditions that reduce blood flow to the brain,
including certain autoimmune diseases (e.g., lupus eythematosus, temporal
arteritis), certain inherited (genetic) diseases, infections of the heart
(endocarditis), brain hemorrhage, profoundly low blood pressure can also cause vascular . Since arteriosclerosis is not the sole cause, coding 437.0 without documentation of cerebral arteriosclerosis is not appropriate. As coders, we must code what's documented, without inserting our knowledge of disease states or opinions into the process.
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