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Stroke. 2001 Jul;32(7):1487-91.

Possible effect of DRGs on the classification of stroke: implications for epidemiological surveillance.

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New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA, USA.



Accurate data on the distribution of stroke subtypes are essential for understanding the forces driving recent morbidity and mortality trends. The introduction of diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) in the 1980s may have affected the distribution of stroke subtypes as defined by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), discharge diagnosis codes.


The Pawtucket Heart Health Program cardiovascular surveillance data were used to examine trends in stroke classification for 1980 to 1991 in relation to the introduction of DRGs in 2 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where DRGs were implemented 2 years apart. Included were all hospital discharges for residents aged 35 to 74 with a primary ICD-9 diagnosis of 431 to 432, 434, or 436 to 437 (N=1386 in Rhode Island, N=1839 in Massachusetts).


In each state, concurrently with the introduction of DRGs, the proportion of strokes classified as cerebral occlusion (ICD-9 434.0 to 434.9) increased, and the proportion classified as acute but ill-defined (ICD-9 436.0 to 436.9) decreased. Before DRGs, 30.0% of strokes in Rhode Island and 26.6% in Massachusetts were classified as cerebral occlusion, whereas 51.8% in Rhode Island and 51.7% in Massachusetts were classified as acute ill defined. After DRGs were instituted, the proportions of cerebral occlusion and acute, ill-defined stroke, respectively, were 70.9% and 8.5% in Rhode Island and 74.1% and 7.7% in Massachusetts (chi(2), all P<0.001). The proportions of strokes classified as intracerebral hemorrhage or transient cerebral ischemia remained constant.


The implementation of DRGs may have influenced coding of strokes to the ICD-9. Findings highlight the limitations of hospital discharge data for evaluating stroke subtypes and demonstrate the need for community-based surveillance for monitoring specific trends in stroke.

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