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ICD-10 Code M54.6

ICD-10-CM code M54.6 refers to "pain in thoracic spine." This code is used by healthcare providers to document and bill for cases where a patient is experiencing pain localized to the thoracic region of the spine.

Detailed description of M54.6

The thoracic spine, also known as the mid-back or upper back, comprises 12 vertebrae labeled T1 through T12. Pain in this region can arise from various causes, including musculoskeletal issues, degenerative disc disease, trauma, or other underlying conditions. ICD-10 code M54.6 specifically identifies pain that is situated in this part of the spine that has not been attributed to a definitive underlying condition.

Symptoms commonly associated with M54.6

Patients presenting with M54.6 may exhibit a range of symptoms, including:

  • Sharp or dull pain in the middle or upper back
  • Muscle stiffness or tightness
  • Limited range of motion in the thoracic spine
  • Pain that worsens with movement or specific activities
  • Possible referred pain to the chest or abdomen

Several ICD-10 codes are related to or similar to M54.6, including:

  • M54.5: Low back pain
  • M54.2: Cervicalgia (neck pain)
  • M54.9: Dorsalgia, unspecified
  • M54.40: Lumbago with sciatica, unspecified side
  • S23.3: Sprain and strain of thoracic spine

These codes help differentiate pain in various regions of the spine and specify the nature of the pain or associated conditions.

Appropriate usage of M54.6 for billing

When using M54.6 for billing, it is important to ensure that the diagnosis is well-documented in the patient's medical record. The documentation should include a thorough assessment of the patient's symptoms, physical examination findings, and any relevant imaging or diagnostic studies. This ensures that the code accurately reflects the patient's condition and justifies the medical necessity for treatments or interventions provided.

Coding guidelines and best practices

  • Use M54.6 only when the pain is specifically localized to the thoracic spine.
  • Ensure that the patient's medical record includes detailed documentation of the symptoms, clinical findings, and any diagnostic tests performed.
  • Consider using additional codes to specify contributing factors if applicable.

Common pitfalls in coding with M54.6

  • Misidentifying the location of the spine pain, leading to incorrect coding.
  • Inadequate documentation in the medical record, which can result in claim denials or audits.
  • Use of M54.6 when a more precise diagnosis as the etiology of the thoracic pain is evident based on clinical evaluation.

Instructional guidelines for coding M54.6

Category M54 Dorsalgia includes a type 1 excludes note for M54.6, advising against using this code if the thoracic back pain is solely due to psychological disorders, specifically psychogenic dorsalgia (F45.41). In such cases, only the F45.41 code should be used.

Additionally, code M54.6 has an Excludes 1 instructional note for pain in thoracic spine due to intervertebral disc disorder (M51.-). If intervertebral disc disorder is diagnosed as the source of the thoracic back pain, use M51.- instead of M54.6.

M54.6 may also be used in conjunction with codes from category G89, which detail whether the pain is acute or chronic. 

Key resources for M54.6 coding


ICD-10-CM code M54.6 is used to document and bill for pain in the thoracic spine. Accurate coding requires thorough documentation, a clear understanding of the patient's symptoms, and adherence to coding guidelines. By following best practices and utilizing available resources, healthcare providers can ensure proper coding and billing for thoracic spine pain, leading to better patient care and optimized reimbursement.

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