Every time I get a really bad cold or some stomach bug, which usually is over in a few days, I marvel at how our body can usually heal itself. But each year when we begin the process of revising the ICD-9-CM code books, and I see all the various diseases and accidents that can make us ill, hurt us, or kill us, I am amazed that any of us survives for very long.
The ICD-9-CM coding system provides specific codes for these injuries and diseases, but the addition of new codes and code groups reflects not only the discovery of new maladies and the advancement of medicine, but also reflects social, economic and political issues as well. Additions to ICD-9-CM in the past few years include a new section for HIV (042), codes for adult and child abuse (E9670-E967.9), accidents involving spacecraft (E845) and a host of codes related to terrorism by aircraft, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons (E979.0-E979.9). I wonder if letter bomber Ted Kaczynski knows there is an ICD-9-CM code for Assault by letter bomb (E95.7)?
But in addition to all of the ICD-9-CM codes for the really bad things that can happen to us, there are some codes that I have always found to be amusing by their descriptions (although I’m sure they’re not be funny to those afflicted.) One of my favorites has always been “black hairy tongue” (529.3) which conjures up some nasty images with little effort. Accidental fall from commode (E884.6) is another one I like. Until the mid-1990’s all versions of ICD-9-CM included a listing in the alphabetic section under “no” for “no room at the inn,” some government employee’s idea of a good joke no doubt.