New NIH Stroke Scale Codes in ICD-10-CM Effective DOS Oct 1 2016

There is an updated section of ICD-10-CM effective October 1, 2016 regarding the newly added NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS) codes that have now been added this year to ICD-10-CM. The NIHSS can be used as a clinical stroke assessment tool to evaluate and document neurological status in acute stroke patients. The stroke scale is valid for predicting lesion size and can serve as a measure of stroke severity. The NIHSS has been shown to be a predictor of both short and long term outcome of stroke patients. Additionally, the stroke scale serves as a data collection tool for planning patient care and provides a common language for information exchanges among healthcare providers.

The scale is designed to be a simple, valid, and reliable tool that can be administered at the bedside consistently by physicians, nurses or therapists.

The NIHSS is a 15-item neurologic examination stroke scale used to evaluate the effect of acute cerebral infarction on the levels of consciousness, language, neglect, visual-field loss, extraocular movement, motor strength, ataxia, dysarthria, and sensory loss. A trained observer rates the patent’s ability to answer questions and perform activities. Ratings for each item are scored with 3 to 5 grades with 0 as normal, and there is an allowance for untestable items. The single patient assessment requires less than 10 minutes to complete.

Updates to the 2017 ICD-10-CM guidelines, effective October 1, 2016 are below. Note that wording in blue font below represents new or edited wording.

—A. Conventions for the ICD-10-CM

  1. Documentation for BMI, Depth of Non-pressure ulcers, Pressure Ulcer Stages, Coma Scale, and NIH Stroke Scale

For the Body Mass Index (BMI), depth of non-pressure chronic ulcers, pressure ulcer stage, coma scale, and NIH stroke scale (NIHSS) codes, code assignment may be based on medical record documentation from clinicians who are not the patient’s provider (i.e. physician or other qualified healthcare practitioner legally accountable for establishing the patient’s diagnosis), since this information is typically documented by other clinicians involved in the care of the patient (e.g., a dietician often documents the BMI, a nurse often documents the pressure ulcer stages, and an emergency medical technician often documents the coma scale). However, the associated diagnosis (such as overweight, obesity, acute stroke, or pressure ulcer) must be documented by the patient’s provider. If there is conflicting medical record documentation, either from the same clinician or different clinicians, the patient’s attending provider should be queried for clarification.

The BMI, coma scale, and NIHSS codes should only be reported as secondary diagnoses.

Chapter 18: Symptoms, signs, and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified

NIHSS Stroke Scale

The NIH stroke scale (NIHSS) codes (R29.7–) can be used in conjunction with acute stroke codes (I63) to identify the patient’s neurological status and severity of the stroke. The stroke scale codes should be sequenced after the acute stroke diagnosis code(s).
At a minimum, report the initial score documented. If desired, a facility may choose to capture multiple stroke scale scores.

More information on the Stroke Scale can be found at the following link:    NIH Stroke Scale


Brian Boyce, BSHS, CPC, CPC-I, CRC, CTPRP is an AAPC-approved PMCC medical coding instructor, and ICD-10-CM trainer and the author of the AAPC CRC® curriculum. He has specialized in risk adjustment from the very beginnings of these models being utilized and has assisted large and small clients nationally. He has special interest in ethics, patient safety, disease management, and management and leadership of people. Brian is a veteran of Desert Storm, where he served on active duty with the US Air Force with a job specialty of Aeromedical Evacuation. He went into physician practice management and medical coding after an honorable discharge. He is the CEO of ionHealthcare® LLC, a company that specializes in healthcare consulting, risk adjustment coding, management & support services. For additional inquiries contact ionHealthcare® at