Billing and Coding Heartburn – Some Important Facts

by | Published on Aug 27, 2020 | Resources | 0 comments

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Regarded as a common problem, heartburn refers to a burning pain in the chest (behind your breast bone), that often occurs with a bitter taste in your throat or mouth. The condition is felt when the stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus (the pipe that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). The burning pain is often worse after eating in the evening or when lying down or bending over. Generally, occasional heartburn is more common and causes no severe harm. Most people can handle the symptoms and other discomfort associated with the condition through lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. On the other hand, heartburn that occurs frequently or interferes with your daily activities may be a symptom of a more severe condition that requires medical care. Gastroenterologists or other specialists who treat patients need to correctly diagnose heartburn. To document the diagnosis and treatments correctly, they can rely on established medical billing and coding companies.

Reports from the American College of Gastroenterology suggest that at least 15 million Americans experience heartburn every single day. As mentioned above, the condition typically occurs when the contents from the stomach back up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food and fluids from the mouth into the stomach). In some people, the condition can be the result of a hiatal hernia – which occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest. The condition is also quite common during pregnancy time. Other factors and lifestyle habits that can increase the risk of this condition include – consumption of certain medications (like aspirin or ibuprofen), habit of smoking, eating spicy foods, consuming caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol and being overweight or obese.


Most people experience heartburn occasionally. However, people who experience this condition more than twice a week or if the condition does not improve with treatment should consult a gastric specialist immediately as this could be a symptom of a more serious condition. In addition, this condition can also occur alongside other gastrointestinal conditions, like ulcers (sores in the lining of the esophagus and stomach).

For most patients, the symptoms of heartburn are evident. A feeling of warmth or heat, sometimes burning, in the chest and throat is one of the most common symptoms associated with the condition. Other related symptoms include –

  • Increasing pain (possibly reaching the jaw)
  • Foul, acrid taste in the mouth
  • Burning sensation in the middle of the chest
  • Burning and indigestion-like pain

Diagnosing and Treating Heartburn

In order to determine whether the heartburn is associated with symptoms of GERD, physicians may recommend a wide variety of tests like – endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe tests, esophageal motility testing (to measure movement and pressure in your esophagus) and X-ray. Treatment for this condition depends on its severity. Occasional heartburns can be effectively managed through lifestyle changes and other home remedies that help alleviate symptoms. Incorporating lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the symptoms. Patients should also try to avoid lifestyle habits like lying down after meals, using tobacco and alcohol products and consuming chocolate or caffeinated drinks. In addition, avoiding certain food like – carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, tomatoes and fried foods can also help decrease the symptoms. If making these lifestyle changes do not improve the symptoms, it is important to consult a gastroenterologist. Based on the medical history evaluation, and diagnosis of symptoms and causes, physicians may prescribe medications. Medications for occasional heartburn include antacids, H2 receptor antagonists, proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) and histamine-2 blockers. All diagnoses and treatment procedures must be carefully documented using the correct medical codes. Billing and coding services offered by reliable medical billing companies can ensure the correct codes on the medical claims.

  • R12- Heartburn – is the ICD-10 code for diagnosing the condition.

Incorporating positive lifestyle changes can prevent or improve heartburn symptoms. Some important tips to prevent heartburn include –

  • Avoid food items that may cause your symptoms.
  • Take over-the-counter medication, such as a chewable antacid tablet, before you eat to prevent heartburn symptoms to start.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and tobacco usage.
  • Avoid late night snacking.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently.

Gastroenterology medical billing and coding can be challenging. Physicians can consider hiring professional medical coding services as this would ensure accurate reporting of diagnostic details and help avoid delayed / denied claims.

Natalie Tornese

Holding a CPC certification from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), Natalie is a seasoned professional actively managing medical billing, medical coding, verification, and authorization services at OSI.

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