On October 1, 2015, fibromyalgia will finally be recognized as an official diagnosis in the new ICD-10 list of codes being adopted across the U.S. This is the final culmination of the advances over the last decade in the medical community’s understanding and acceptance of fibromyalgia as a real disease.
For the past 30 years, every U.S. hospital and doctor’s office has used the ICD-9 list of codes to indicate a diagnosis for all patient encounters. This list does not include a specific diagnosis code for fibromyalgia. Instead doctors have had to use the code “Myalgia and myositis, unspecified (729.1),” which includes any disorder causing muscle pain or inflammation. Muscle pain is definitely a part of fibromyalgia, but there are other important symptoms and unique features that make it a distinct entity, including non-restorative sleep, fatigue, and foggy thinking. In the new system, fibromyalgia finally gets its own diagnostic code: “Fibromyalgia (M79.7).”
This is a huge bureaucratic stamp of approval that legitimizes fibromyalgia as a real, distinct entity. It will make winning a disability case for fibromyalgia easier. A few years ago, I was testifying in support of one of my patients, and the opposing lawyer said to me, “How can you say fibromyalgia is real when it doesn’t even have its own diagnosis code?”
The new code will also enable more accurate studies of fibromyalgia treatment outcomes, as the data for many of these observational studies are gathered by tracking diagnosis codes. Without its own diagnoses code, fibromyalgia studies have been hampered by watered down data from the inclusion of patients that did not actually have fibro, but some other illness causing muscle pain.
And most important of all, it puts the word “fibromyalgia” into the official health care lexicon, and doctors can no longer say, “Fibromyalgia does not exist.”
Editor’s Note: Ginevra Liptan, MD is board certified in internal medicine. She has been an associate professor at Oregon Health and Science University, her articles about fibromyalgia have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, and she is the recipient of a Gerlinger Foundation Research Award.
Dr. Liptan has extensive clinical, personal and research experience with this illness. She has a compassionate, knowledgeable approach utilizing cutting-edge treatments, effective alternative therapies and prescription medications. Learn more about her Functional Fibro Treatment Approach by clicking here.