COVID-19 Codes Brought Multitude of Post-Acute Conditions


The spotlight is on your revenue cycle’s coding team as COVID-19 reporting sheds light on a multitude of post-acute conditions brought on by the virus.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open found that between October 1, 2021, and January 31, 2022, providers used ICD-10-CM code U09.9 (post-COVID-19 condition, unspecified) to identify a multitude of post-acute conditions brought on by COVID-19.

The study was commissioned to examine how the diagnosis code was used in clinical practice over the four-month period in anticipation of helping public health professionals monitor post-COVID-19 symptoms and gain a better understanding of health risks associated with COVID-19 as the pandemic evolves.

Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 are commonly documented in patients recovering from the infection weeks to months after acute infection. Code U09.9 is used to identify sequelae such as fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, and impaired lung function.

To examine how code U09.9 was used in clinical practice over the four-month period, researchers reviewed 56,143 medical records for patients with a post–COVID-19 condition.

Researchers found that ICD-10-CM code U09.9 was used immediately after it was released on October 1, 2021, and that its use plateaued in January 2022. Providers used this code to represent various symptoms spanning multiple body systems, including but not limited to:

  • Anomaly of breathing
  • Disturbance of smell and taste
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain in the throat or chest
  • Sleep disorders
  • Unspecified viral pneumonia

There is no standard clinical definition of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, which complicates documentation and coding for long COVID-19, the report said.

Appropriate application of ICD-10-CM code U09.9 is a must as it will help public health professionals better understand and monitor post-COVID-19 conditions moving forward.

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