Coding Tip: Debridement Coding in ICD-10-PCS

This Coding Tip was updated on 07/12/22

Debridement is the medical removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing of remaining healthy tissue.  Debridement may be excisional or non-excisional in coding and include autolytic debridement, enzymatic debridement, mechanical debridement, surgical debridement and maggot therapy. Trying to determine if a surgical debridement is excisional can sometimes be tricky for a coder.

The documentation standard for coding excisional debridement did not change with the use of ICD-10-PCS reporting. The provider must document “excisional debridement” or clearly document/describe the procedure as being an “excision” of the tissue being debrided.

Excisional debridement

Excisional debridement is surgical removal (cutting away) of tissue, necrosis, or slough. This is classified to the root operation of “Excision” in PCS. Excisional debridement involves the use of a sharp instrument, like a scalpel, to cut away/remove devitalized tissue.

A code for excisional debridement is assigned when the physician documents “excisional debridement” or if the physician has clearly documented removal of tissue by excision (cutting out or off, without replacement, a portion of a body part).

The use of a sharp instrument alone is not sufficient for reporting excisional debridement.  Documentation of knife dissection is not sufficient for reporting to the root operation of “excision”.

Non-excisional debridement

Non-excisional debridement is the nonoperative brushing, irrigating, scrubbing, or washing of devitalized tissue, necrosis, slough, or foreign material. Most non-excisional debridement procedures will be classified to the root operation of “Extraction” (pulling or stripping out or off all of a portion of a body part by the use of force). Debridement using a Versajet Debrider is reported as a non-excisional debridement.

When both excisional and non-excisional debridement is performed at the same site, only the excisional debridement code would be coded. The excision is the definitive treatment at the site.

It is the coder’s responsibility to read the documentation provided and determine what root operation the documentation equates to in the PCS definitions. Physicians are not expected to use terms associated with the PCS code descriptions.

AHA Coding Clinic, Third Quarter 2015; Pages 3-8
AHA Coding Clinic, First Quarter 2013 Pages: 15-17
ICD-10-PCS Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting 2016
AHA Coding Clinic, Third Quarter 2016 Pages: 20-22
AHA Coding Clinic, First Quarter 2018 Pages: 14-15
AHA Coding Clinic, Third Quarter 2018 Pages: 17-18
AHA Coding Clinic, Second Quarter 2020 Page: 26


The information contained in this coding advice is valid at the time of posting. Viewers are encouraged to research subsequent official guidance in the areas associated with the topic as they can change rapidly.

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