This article has a correction

Please see: J Am Med Inform Assoc 2014;21:757

J Am Med Inform Assoc 21:547-557 doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2013-002116
  • Review

ICD-10 codes used to identify adverse drug events in administrative data: a systematic review

Open Access
  1. Jürgen Stausberg4
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4Institut für Medizinische Informationsverarbeitung, Biometrie und Epidemiologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Corinne M Hohl, Department of Emergency Medicine, Vancouver General Hospital, 855 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9, Canada; chohl{at}
  • Received 1 July 2013
  • Revised 23 October 2013
  • Accepted 27 October 2013
  • Published Online First 12 November 2013


Background Adverse drug events, the unintended and harmful effects of medications, are important outcome measures in health services research. Yet no universally accepted set of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) revision 10 codes or coding algorithms exists to ensure their consistent identification in administrative data. Our objective was to synthesize a comprehensive set of ICD-10 codes used to identify adverse drug events.

Methods We developed a systematic search strategy and applied it to five electronic reference databases. We searched relevant medical journals, conference proceedings, electronic grey literature and bibliographies of relevant studies, and contacted content experts for unpublished studies. One author reviewed the titles and abstracts for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two authors reviewed eligible full-text articles and abstracted data in duplicate. Data were synthesized in a qualitative manner.

Results Of 4241 titles identified, 41 were included. We found a total of 827 ICD-10 codes that have been used in the medical literature to identify adverse drug events. The median number of codes used to search for adverse drug events was 190 (IQR 156–289) with a large degree of variability between studies in the numbers and types of codes used. Authors commonly used external injury (Y40.0–59.9) and disease manifestation codes. Only two papers reported on the sensitivity of their code set.

Conclusions Substantial variability exists in the methods used to identify adverse drug events in administrative data. Our work may serve as a point of reference for future research and consensus building in this area.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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