Top 10 gastroenterology diagnoses of 2021

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are as unpleasant as they are common. In fact, they’re listed as the primary diagnosis for about 66.4 million ambulatory care visits every year.

The field of gastroenterology is focused on the study and treatment of conditions affecting the GI system. Gastroenterologists see patients for a wide variety of GI concerns ranging from fairly mild to life-threatening.

Luckily, as we’ll see in the list below, the most commonly diagnosed gastroenterological conditions tend to fall on the less-concerning side of the spectrum. Keep reading to explore the top 10 gastroenterology diagnoses of 2021.

10 most common gastroenterology diagnoses

Rank ICD-10 Code ICD-10 Description # Total Diagnoses % Total Diagnoses # Principal Diagnoses % Principal Diagnoses
1 K219 Gastroesophageal reflux disease without esophagitis 27,418,682 19.20% 3,759,977 8.40%
2 K5900 Constipation, unspecified 8,068,932 5.70% 2,115,446 4.70%
3 K5730 Diverticulosis of large intestine without perforation or abscess without bleeding 4,755,010 3.30% 600,627 1.30%
4 K760 Fatty (change of) liver, not elsewhere classified 3,862,116 2.70% 1,025,270 2.30%
5 K635 Polyp of colon 3,584,736 2.50% 910,992 2.00%
6 K449 Diaphragmatic hernia without obstruction or gangrene 3,320,775 2.30% 521,819 1.20%
7 K529 Noninfective gastroenteritis and colitis, unspecified 3,198,800 2.20% 1,723,696 3.90%
8 K648 Other hemorrhoids 2,754,033 1.90% 326,897 0.70%
9 K2100 Gastroesophageal reflux disease with esophagitis, without bleeding 2,337,644 1.60% 656,735 1.50%
10 K2970 Gastritis, unspecified, without bleeding 2,317,132 1.60% 787,995 1.80%

Fig 1. Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMx product. Data is accurate as of May 2022.

Which GI concerns do gastroenterologists handle most?

The most common gastroenterology diagnosis of 2021 was gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) without esophagitis (ICD-10 code K219), with 27.4 million total diagnoses and 3.7 million principal diagnoses.

GERD is a common condition in which stomach acid frequently leaks into the esophagus, irritating the esophageal lining and causing heartburn. As the table shows, GERD accounts for over 19% of all gastroenterology diagnoses.

While many people experience acid reflux from time to time, chronic GERD is most prevalent among people over the age of 40, pregnant women, smokers and regular drinkers. GERD with esophagitis (ICD-10 code K2100), or inflammation that can damage the esophagus, is rarer, with just over 2.3 million total diagnoses in 2021.

Unspecified constipation (ICD-10 code K5900) was the second most common gastroenterology diagnosis in 2021, with over 8 million total diagnoses, or about 5.7% of all GI diagnoses that year.

Just about everyone experiences constipation from time to time, as its causes are numerous: a diet lacking in fiber, anxiety, medication side effects, infection or even a simple change in routine. For most people, constipation can be resolved with time or over-the-counter treatments. In more severe cases, however, constipation can cause other conditions like hemorrhoids (ICD-10 code K648) or indicate potential structural issues, such as colon polyps (ICD-10 code K635).

With more than 4.7 million total diagnoses, diverticulosis of the large intestine (ICD-10 code K5730) was 2021’s third most common gastroenterology diagnosis. Diverticulosis refers to the normal development of small pouches in the lining of the colon known as diverticula. When these pouches become inflamed or infected, the condition is called diverticulitis.

Diverticulosis commonly develops in people over age 40 and rarely causes discomfort. Most cases of diverticulitis can be treated with diet or antibiotics, though more severe cases can require surgery.

What is gastroenterology?

Gastroenterology is the study of the human digestive system and the diseases that impact its function. Gastroenterologists study and treat afflictions and structural changes of the GI tract, including the esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum, pancreas gallbladder and liver.

In 2021, nearly 17,000 gastroenterologists were actively practicing in the U.S.

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