Prenatal Exposure to Industrial Chemicals Increases Autism Risk, Says New Study

by | Last updated Jul 4, 2023 | Published on Oct 26, 2016 | Healthcare News

Prenatal Exposure Chemicals Increases
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Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that usually manifests itself before a child is three. Physicians diagnose the condition through a physical assessment and diagnostic tests. Expert coders in medical coding companies know how indicate an autism diagnosis for reimbursement purposes using the right ICD-10 code, and are also knowledgeable about coding associated medical conditions and intellectual disabilities.

Autism affects about 1 in 45 children in the US, according to a recent National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The disorder is associated with problems learning language, impaired social relationships, difficulty understanding social cues, and communication issues. Treating this development disorder is a team effort involving a primary care doctor, psychiatrist, neurologist, and other specialists.

Current studies focus on investigating potential autism risk factors such as genetics, older fathers, very low birth weight, and extremely premature birth. According to a new study, prenatal exposure to organochlorines puts children at greater risk for autism. These chemicals include dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Used as pesticides, lubricants, and insulators in the U.S. between the 1950s and 1970s, organochlorines were later banned. However, these chemicals continue to persist in the environment, affecting human health.

Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA investigated whether prenatal exposure to organochlorines in the U.S. could be linked to autism development. Their sample was drawn from the Expanded Alphafetoprotein Prenatal Screening Program and comprised 1,144 children who were born in Southern California between 2000-2003. Blood samples were taken from the mother during the second trimester of pregnancy to determine the children’s prenatal exposure to PCBs and other organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) – including DDT. The study found that, of the 1,144 children:

  • 545 had autism
  • 181 had intellectual disabilities, but no diagnosis of autism
  • 418 were free of autism and intellectual disabilities

The critical finding was that children who had the highest prenatal exposure to PCBs had an 80 percent greater risk of autism than those with the lowest prenatal exposure to the chemicals.

Physicians recommend regular screening of babies and toddlers for signs and symptoms of autistic disorders to facilitate early referral for further evaluation and treatment. The ICD-10 code to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes is:

F84.0 – Autistic disorder. This code is applicable to:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Infantile autism
  • Infantile psychosis
  • Kanner’s syndrome

Additional codes should be used to identify associated medical conditions and intellectual disabilities:

  • F84.2 – Rett’s Syndrome
  • F84.3 – Other childhood disintegrative disorder
  • F84.5 – Asperger’s Syndrome
  • F84.8 – Other pervasive developmental disorders
  • F84.9 – Pervasive developmental disorder, unspecified

The Drexel University researchers found high prenatal exposure to PCBs doubled the risk of intellectual disabilities.

Coding for this complex development disability is much easier with expert medical coding services. The experienced team in a reliable company would have an in-depth understanding of ICD-10 and CPT along with HCPCS standards to assign correct codes and to ensure that the coding principles are being utilized. This will ensure appropriate reimbursement for the diagnosis and treatment of autistic disorders.

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