Cracking the Code

Coding Consciousness: What’s your GCS?

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is used to assess reduced levels of consciousness in patients. It is the most reliable way to objectively record the initial and subsequent level of consciousness in a person after a brain injury. It is comprised of three components that are considered separately and summed: eye opening (E), verbal response (V), and motor responses (M). The GCS provides a score in the range of 3 (deep coma or brain death) – 15 (fully awake and aware), and patients that have a score of 3-8 are usually defined as being in a coma. Please pay close attention to physician’s documentation in order to capture the accurate GCS score. If documentation does NOT state the total coma score, then a diagnosis code from subcategory R40.24 should NOT be assigned.

This equation simply states that the eye opening measured at a level 2, verbal response measured at a level 4, and motor response measured at a level 6. The sum of all three components results in a total of 12. The number 12 is the GCS score for this patient.

Q: Physician documents GCS 12 = E2 V4 M6 at 5:52 AM at hospital admission.
A: R40.2423, Glasgow coma scale score 9-12, at hospital admission
Reference: Coding Clinic 4th Quarter 2016, pgs. 64-65: Glasgow coma scale
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