Surviving and Coding the Zombie Apocalypse

Fans of the popular AMC television show “The Walking Dead” have watched Atlanta and its surrounding area become overrun by brain-hungry, shambling zombies. On Friday, November 1 at the nearby Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart, the undead will truly invade Atlanta during the Walker Stalker Con 2013—a convention devoted to fans of the zombie horror sub-genre.

In the event this zombie horde arrives in the city early and descends upon the AHIMA Convention and Exhibit by mistake, the following are three tips for surviving the zombie apocalypse (ZA) and then coding its various effects in ICD-10-CM/PCS. This assumes, of course, society has not broken down to its core and payers are still accepting claims—not creating them.


Surviving the ZA Tip #1:

Find a quiet weapon.

While a gun may seem like a handy tool to have when murderous bands of undead are feasting on the living, it is not necessarily the weapon experts recommend one wield during the ZA. When fired, a gunshot can be heard for miles—and serve as a dinner bell calling zombies within earshot to one’s location. A machete, crossbow, or medieval mace works best for battle. If stuck in the convention center, search for objects that can deliver silent but deadly blunt-force trauma like a crowbar, tire iron, or fire ax. But be careful; a weapon in an untrained hand can be just as threatening to the living as a ghoul.


Coding the ZA Tip #1:

X93.XXXA—Assault by handgun discharge (with silencer), initial encounter

X99.1XXA—Assault by knife, initial encounter

X99.2XXA—Assault by sword, initial encounter

Y00.XXXA—Assault by blunt object, initial encounter

Y08.01XA—Assault by strike by hockey stick, initial encounter

Y08.02XA—Assault by baseball bat, initial encounter


Survival Tip #2:

Destroy the brain, kill the zombie.

The only way to truly stop a zombie is by destroying its brain. Fire is the only way to truly dispose of the entire carcass. Body shots will only slow a zombie down. Remember the tested rhyme, “Aim for the head to make sure a zombie’s dead.”


Coding Tip #2:

S06.0X7A—Concussion with loss of consciousness of any duration with death due to brain injury prior to regaining consciousness, initial encounter

S06.2X7A—Diffuse traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness of any duration with death due to brain injury prior to regaining consciousness, initial encounter


Survival Tip #3:

Don’t get bit.

Like a vampire, those bit by a zombie will become infected with their living-dead diseases, and soon become a zombie themselves. The ability to become infected with the curse of the dead doesn’t just apply to humans. Research (late-night TV) has shown that animals can also become infected with the zombie virus and turn into crazed killers. Wear sturdy fabrics like leather or light armor to help prevent a zombie from breaking the skin during a bite. Better yet, stay out of bite range when dealing with deadheads.

Because science hasn’t categorized the zombie virus—yet—below is a list of infectious diseases that can take the place of a zombie virus code (watch for that in ICD-12).


Coding Tip #3:

Y04.1XXA—Assault by human bite, initial encounter

W54.0XXA—Bitten by dog, initial encounter

W55.51XA—Bitten by raccoon, initial encounter

W56.11XA—Bitten by sea lion, initial encounter

W58.11XA—Bitten by crocodile, initial encounter

W59.11XA—Bitten by nonvenemous snake, initial encounter

W61.51XA—Bitten by goose, initial encounter

A01.00—Typhoid fever, unspecified

A20.0—Bubonic plague

A22.7—Anthrax sepsis

A25.9—Rat-bite fever, unspecified

A30.9—Leprosy, unspecified

A69.20—Lyme disease, unspecified

A82.1—Urban rabies


Follow the news and get insights from AHIMA’s 85th annual Convention and Exhibit being held October 26-30 in Atlanta, GA. For a complete list of event coverage on the Journal of AHIMA website, click here.



  1. Very helpful. Now, if only ICD-10 allowed for brain injury and “subsequent encounter” — these zombies are known to die and get back up several times.

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  2. I must confess that I did look for any and all diagnoses that I could think of directly related to zombies in the new ICD-10-CM code book, because I am a walking dead fan. This is a very creative and fun article. Thanks, Chris!

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