Cracking the Code

Coding Asthma

According to the Mayo Clinic, “asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing) when you breathe out, and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. Asthma can’t be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled.” As asthma often changes, patients should be diligent in working with their providers to track their signs and symptoms to develop the right treatment plan.


When we are coding for a diagnosis of asthma, it is important to remember that the severity of the asthma should be documented as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent, or severe persistent. Acute exacerbation of asthma means an increased severity of asthma. Status asthmaticus is when the patient is not responding to treatment. When coding for asthma, the coder should review the documentation to determine if the asthma is exacerbated.

Q: A 9-year-old male child presents to the Emergency Department with an acute exacerbation of asthma. The patient is wheezing and is having difficulty breathing. He does not seem to respond to the therapy. The provider documents asthma with status asthmaticus as the final diagnosis. What ICD-10-CM code is reported for this encounter?
A: J45.902 Rationale: The final diagnosis is asthma with status asthmaticus. In our ICD-10-CM Alphabetic Index, we are going to find Asthma/with/status asthmaticus, J45.902. As always we want to verify the code selection in our Tabular List.
Reference: FY 2024 ICD-10-CM codebook, Mayo Clinic
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