Basic Anatomy and Physiology

Basic Anatomy and Physiology Principles

Learn the basic anatomy of the human body and the principles of physiology to help boost your billing/coding career…

Knowing basic human anatomy is a fundamental part of being a successful medical coder.


In addition to basic medical terminology, human anatomy helps you assign a more precise diagnosis code. It’s also very important for assigning procedure codes, which are specific to certain parts of the body in many cases.

Both the main texts used by medical coders (CPT codes and ICD-9 codes) are arranged by the human body’s anatomical systems.

Even when a code isn’t specific to a particular area of the body, it’s still important to understand the anatomy of the human body.


Know how the entire body works

Whether or not you’re coding in a specialty practice, you’ll still need to be familiar with the entire anatomy of the human body. Your doctor won’t concentrate on only one bodily system – you shouldn’t either. You’ll need to know how all of the body’s systems work and the principles of physiology to make sure you’re doing the job right.

The anatomy of the human body is made up of a number of different systems of organs that work together to perform more complex bodily functions.

The following is a list of body systems which you’ll need to know, as well as a brief description of their related codes.


    • The Integumentary SystemIntegumentary System: This system includes the skin, nails, hair, sweat and oil glands, and mammary glands.All of these structures function together to protect the body from the outside world, as well as retain bodily fluids, protect from disease, regulate body temperature, and eliminate waste. They also provide sensation.

      Procedure codes related to the integumentary system range from simple incision and drainage of fluid-filled cysts to skin grafts and removal of cancerous lesions.


    • The Muskuloskeletal SystemMuskuloskeletal System: This body system consists of the entire skeleton, which is made up of bones attached to other bones with joints and skeletal muscles attached to the skeleton with tendons and ligaments.Muskuloskeletal systems allow us to move as well as supporting and protecting the internal organs.

      Procedure codes related to the musculoskeletal system are generally related to fracture repair codes, casting, relocation of dislocated joints, and other musculoskeletal repair codes.


    • Respiratory System: The respiratory system is made up of the nose and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. All working together, these organs supply the blood with oxygen, which is delivered to all parts of the body.Procedure codes related to the respiratory system range from removal of foreign body from the nose to surgical closure of a tracheostomy.

      The Respiratory System


    • Cardiovascular System: The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, arteries, and veins that run throughout the body. This system distributes oxygen, removes waste products, and provides temperature control.Procedure codes related to the cardiovascular system range from venipunture to take a blood sample, to a heart transplant.


    • Lymphatic System: This system consists of the lymph nodes, ducts, tissues, capillaries and vessels that transport lymph fluid to the circulatory system. This is a major component of the immune system.Procedure codes related to the lymphatic system include removal of the spleen, biopsy, and excision of lymph nodes.


    • The Digestive System, image copyright Healthwise, Inc.Digestive System: The digestive system begins at the mouth and runs all the way through the body to the anus. It is the system with which we eat, digest, and eliminate our food waste.There are many codes that may be identified in these systems, including diagnosis codes relating to upset stomach or nausea, to repair or incision of tongue, mouth, liver, and appendix.


    • Urinary System: The urinary system includes the kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. These organs work together to filter blood by removing waste, as well as controlling the amount of salt and water in the body.Diagnosis codes relating to the urinary system range from urinary tract infections to bed-wetting, and procedure codes range from insertion of catheters to surgical removal of kidney stones.


    • Reproductive System: The reproductive systems are divided into the male and female organs and vary greatly. These organs work together to make babies!Procedure codes relating to the reproductive organs range from circumcision to artificial insemination.


    • The Nervous System (brain, spine, and nerves)Nervous System: The nervous system is divided into the central and the peripheral parts. It includes the brain, spine, nerves and neurons. Working together, this system coordinates activity of the muscles, monitors the organs, constructs input from the senses, and initiates action.Procedure codes relating to the nervous system range from checking a patient’s reflexes to placement of a spinal cord shunt.


    • Auditory and Ocular System: The auditory and ocular, or eye, systems are generally grouped together as they are both sensory organ systems. They include all of the hearing organs, including the bones within the auditory system, as well as the sensory organs that allow you to see, including the eyelids and tear ducts.Diagnosis and procedure codes within this sensory system range from Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection) to surgical repairs of the cornea.

      The Ocular System, image copyright MacMillan Co., from Anatomy and Physiology (1966)


  • Immune System: The immune system is made up of all the molecular and genetic components that defend the body from foreign organisms. This system creates antibodies and releases them into the blood to fight off specific antigens.Because the immune system is located within the blood, many of the procedure and diagnosis codes related to it are also related to the blood, such as a complete blood count (CBC).


It’s a lot to know…

All anatomy of the human body is a lot to know. But as a medical coder you’ll not need to know every single part of every single body system before you can do your job. What you need to focus on is the way everything works together, and how they are related to each other.

For example, your doctor would not be able to perform a CBC (Complete Blood Count) on a patient without somehow collecting a blood sample. This means that as the coder, you need to be able to assign a code to both the CBC and the collection method used at the office visit.

But don’t worry! Don’t be intimidated by the complexities of the human body. You are not the doctor – you won’t be responsible for determining diagnosis codes or deciding what procedures need to be performed at the visit.

Your job is to understand how human anatomy works, use your knowledge of both basic medical terminology and coding, and put it together with what the doctor did at the office visit, to come up with the right codes.


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