The Armadillo Codes

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Several readers have asked what ICD-10 injury code would apply in the case of someone struck by a frozen armadillo. See "Injury Code W5922XA: Struck by Turtle," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 13, 2011)); See also "Man Allegedly Beat Woman With Frozen Armadillo," FOX 4 News (Dallas) (Oct. 18, 2011). Surprisingly, there is no specific code for this, but there are a few candidates.

ArmadilloCertainly one of the more generic codes would work, most likely W5582X ("struck by other mammals"). As you know if you read the "Struck by Turtle" post, these codes in general follow a pattern you would expect, in that there are specific codes for particular animals and then a catch-all "other animal" code at the end. Less expected are some of the choices made by the drafters, i.e., there is no code for "struck by bear," though bears do strike people, but there is a code for "struck by turtle," though turtles almost never do.

In the mammal category, there are specific codes for the following mammals that one might be struck by: dog, horse, cow, "other hoof stock," pig, raccoon, dolphin, sea lion and orca. That's it. No ape, monkey, wolverine, kangaroo, dugong, or armadillo. Some of the listed mammals might "strike" humans as part of an attack, although so far as I can tell the marine mammals do this about as often as turtles do. (I don't count this as an "attack.")

As for armadillos, they seem similar to turtles in that the only way they are likely to "strike" someone is if they are thrown or otherwise propelled by an outside force. That's what happened in the Texas case, after all – the FOX News headline isn't accurate (as unlikely as that may seem) because the man didn't actually "beat" the woman with the frozen armadillo, he threw it at her, twice, hitting her both times.

Apparently, the "struck by animal" codes series is intended to cover animals that hit, kick or run into you (e.g. horse) as well as those thrown at you (turtle, possibly raccoon or small dog). If so, then I think W5582X would apply. If it is really only meant for the former situations (although, again, the inclusion of "turtle" precludes that) then we might instead code this particular armadillo as an "object" because it was dead, and so we could use W228XX ("striking against or struck by other objects"). But on the theory that the point is to be as specific as possible, and because of the turtles, I'd go with W5582X.

None of the other possibilities seem to fit as well.

  • Because it was frozen, we might use Y9329 ("activity, other involving ice and snow"). But the injury here was caused by impact, not frostbite or falling, so that doesn't seem like a good fit.
  • If you want to emphasize the location of an injury, there are codes such as V8182X ("occupant of railway train … injured due to object falling onto train"), V9340X ("struck by falling object on merchant ship"), or V9731X ("hit by object falling from aircraft"). This was in a boring parking lot, though.
  • Nor do we have any facts supporting the use of A300-309 (leprosy). Yet.

Oh – that's because, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, "[s]everal armadillos captured in the wild in southern Louisiana and East Texas were found to have mycobacterial leprosy." (Seems they are the only animals other than humans that can get it.)

This is one reason you might not want to handle an armadillo, let alone, as was reportedly the intent here, to eat it. "Eating armadillos is not widespread in Texas today," says the TPWD, but it does show up on the menu, and during the Depression many Texans "dined on the 'Hoover Hog,' referring to the armadillo as 'poor man's pork.'" Those who plan to dine on Hoover Hog today "will find that thorough cooking should make the meat noninfectious" (emphasis added). In this case, the fight apparently got started by haggling over the price of the dead, frozen, possibly nonleprous armadillo carcass, which probably did not get any more appealing after rolling around in a parking lot.

The armadillo-thrower is reportedly still on the loose.