International Classification of Diseases

Last revised by Joachim Feger on 16 Dec 2021

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems constitutes a diagnostic classification standard and tool for all health disorders including epidemiological, clinical, research and health management issues. It is published and overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is designed to improve the comparability of statistical data internationally between different locations and within the same location across different time periods.

Uses of the international classification of diseases include but are not limited to the following 1-3:

  • diagnostic codes for all health disorders including diseases, abnormal findings, signs and symptoms, social circumstances and external causes of injury or disease
  • morbidity and mortality statistics
  • monitoring purposes (including incidence, prevalence and cause of death)
  • prevention
  • quality assurance
  • patient safety issues
  • reimbursement systems
  • automated decision support in health care

Several previous events including the Bertillon Classification of Causes of Death published 1893 by the French physician Jacques Bertillon led to the first revision, ICD-1 in 1900, which had a similar structure to Bertillon's previous classification and was translated from French into several languages. Multiple smaller changes were made in the second to fifth revisions, which were in use from 1909 to 1948 2. Major changes in content and scope of the application were done in 1948 including the incorporation of morbidity and mortality when the WHO was entrusted with the creation of the sixth revision (ICD-6) and changed the name to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases. It underwent several changes in the versions ICD-7 (1955) and ICD-8 (1965) as well as in the subsequent versions ICD-9 (1975) and ICD-10 (1990) the latter being in use since 1995 up till now 1,2.

The latest version, the ICD-11 was released in June 2018, endorsed by the 72nd World Health Assembly in May 2019 and will be put into effect in January 2022. It will encompass more than 100,000 medical diagnostic index terms and an implementation package including transition tables and a coding tool, as well as other services and utilities 1,3,4.

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