2022 ICD-10-CM Code J96.9

Respiratory failure, unspecified

Version 2021

Not Valid for Submission

ICD-10:J96.9
Short Description:Respiratory failure, unspecified
Long Description:Respiratory failure, unspecified

Code Classification

  • Diseases of the respiratory system (J00–J99)
    • Other diseases of the respiratory system (J96-J99)
      • Respiratory failure, not elsewhere classified (J96)

J96.9 is a non-specific and non-billable diagnosis code code, consider using a code with a higher level of specificity for a diagnosis of respiratory failure, unspecified. The code is not specific and is NOT valid for the year 2022 for the submission of HIPAA-covered transactions. Category or Header define the heading of a category of codes that may be further subdivided by the use of 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th characters.

Unspecified diagnosis codes like J96.9 are acceptable when clinical information is unknown or not available about a particular condition. Although a more specific code is preferable, unspecified codes should be used when such codes most accurately reflect what is known about a patient's condition. Specific diagnosis codes should not be used if not supported by the patient's medical record.

Specific Coding for Respiratory failure, unspecified

Non-specific codes like J96.9 require more digits to indicate the appropriate level of specificity. Consider using any of the following ICD-10 codes with a higher level of specificity when coding for respiratory failure, unspecified:

  • BILLABLE CODE - Use J96.90 for Respiratory failure, unspecified, unspecified whether with hypoxia or hypercapnia
  • BILLABLE CODE - Use J96.91 for Respiratory failure, unspecified with hypoxia
  • BILLABLE CODE - Use J96.92 for Respiratory failure, unspecified with hypercapnia

Clinical Information

Information for Patients


Respiratory Failure

What is respiratory failure?

Respiratory failure is a condition in which your blood doesn't have enough oxygen or has too much carbon dioxide. Sometimes you can have both problems.

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen. The oxygen passes into your blood, which carries it to your organs. Your organs, such as your heart and brain, need this oxygen-rich blood to work well.

Another part of breathing is removing the carbon dioxide from the blood and breathing it out. Having too much carbon dioxide in your blood can harm your organs.

What causes respiratory failure?

Conditions that affect your breathing can cause respiratory failure. These conditions may affect the muscles, nerves, bones, or tissues that support breathing. Or they may affect the lungs directly. These conditions include

What are the symptoms of respiratory failure?

The symptoms of respiratory failure depend on the cause and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.

A low oxygen level in the blood can cause shortness of breath and air hunger (the feeling that you can't breathe in enough air). Your skin, lips, and fingernails may also have a bluish color. A high carbon dioxide level can cause rapid breathing and confusion.

Some people who have respiratory failure may become very sleepy or lose consciousness. They also may have arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). You may have these symptoms if your brain and heart are not getting enough oxygen.

How is respiratory failure diagnosed?

Your health care provider will diagnose respiratory failure based on

Once you are diagnosed with respiratory failure, your provider will look for what is causing it. Tests for this often include a chest x-ray. If your provider thinks you may have arrhythmia because of the respiratory failure, you may have an EKG (electrocardiogram). This is simple, painless test that detects and records your heart's electrical activity.

What are the treatments for respiratory failure?

Treatment for respiratory failure depends on

Acute respiratory failure can be a medical emergency. You may need treatment in intensive care unit at a hospital. Chronic respiratory failure can often be treated at home. But if your chronic respiratory failure is severe, you might need treatment in a long-term care center.

One of the main goals of treatment is to get oxygen to your lungs and other organs and remove carbon dioxide from your body. Another goal is to treat the cause of the condition. Treatments may include

If you have respiratory failure, see your health care provider for ongoing medical care. Your provider may suggest pulmonary rehabilitation.

If your respiratory failure is chronic, make sure that you know when and where to get help for your symptoms. You need emergency care if you have severe symptoms, such as trouble catching your breath or talking. You should call your provider if you notice that your symptoms are worsening or if you have new signs and symptoms.

Living with respiratory failure may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk therapy, medicines, and support groups can help you feel better.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


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Code History

  • FY 2021 - No Change, effective from 10/1/2020 through 9/30/2021
  • FY 2020 - No Change, effective from 10/1/2019 through 9/30/2020
  • FY 2019 - No Change, effective from 10/1/2018 through 9/30/2019
  • FY 2018 - No Change, effective from 10/1/2017 through 9/30/2018
  • FY 2017 - No Change, effective from 10/1/2016 through 9/30/2017
  • FY 2016 - New Code, effective from 10/1/2015 through 9/30/2016 (First year ICD-10-CM implemented into the HIPAA code set)