Coding algorithms for defining Charlson and Elixhauser co-morbidities in Read-coded databases

David Metcalfe*, James Masters, Antonella Delmestri, Andrew Judge, Daniel Perry, Cheryl Zogg, Belinda Gabbe, Matthew Costa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Comorbidity measures, such as the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) and Elixhauser Method (EM), are frequently used for risk-adjustment by healthcare researchers. This study sought to create CCI and EM lists of Read codes, which are standard terminology used in some large primary care databases. It also aimed to describe and compare the predictive properties of the CCI and EM amongst patients with hip fracture (and matched controls) in a large primary care administrative dataset.

Methods: Two researchers independently screened 111,929 individual Read codes to populate the 17 CCI and 31 EM comorbidity categories. Patients with hip fractures were identified (together with age- and sex-matched controls) from UK primary care practices participating in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The predictive properties of both comorbidity measures were explored in hip fracture and control populations using logistic regression models fitted with 30- and 365-day mortality as the dependent variables together with tests of equality for Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves.

Results: There were 5,832 CCI and 7,156 EM comorbidity codes. The EM improved the ability of a logistic regression model (using age and sex as covariables) to predict 30-day mortality (AUROC 0.744 versus 0.686). The EM alone also outperformed the CCI (0.696 versus 0.601). Capturing comorbidities over a prolonged period only modestly improved the predictive value of either index: EM 1-year look-back 0.645 versus 5-year 0.676 versus complete record 0.695 and CCI 0.574 versus 0.591 versus 0.605.

Conclusions: The comorbidity code lists may be used by future researchers to calculate CCI and EM using records from Read coded databases. The EM is preferable to the CCI but only marginal gains should be expected from incorporating comorbidities over a period longer than one year.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2019


  • Charlson
  • Comorbidity
  • Elixhauser
  • Read codes


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