Medicare Claim–Based National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale to Predict 30-Day Mortality and Hospital Readmission

Amit Kumar, Indrakshi Roy, Pamela R. Bosch, Corey R. Fehnel, Nicholas Garnica, Jon Cook, Meghan Warren, Amol M. Karmarkar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) penalizes hospitals for higher than expected 30-day mortality rates using methods without accounting for condition severity risk adjustment. For patients with stroke, CMS claims did not quantify stroke severity until recently, when the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) reporting began. Objective: Examine the predictive ability of claim-based NIHSS to predict 30-day mortality and 30-day hospital readmission in patients with ischemic stroke. Design: Retrospective cohort study of Medicare claims data. Patients: Medicare beneficiaries with ischemic stroke (N=43,241) acute hospitalization between October 2016 and November 2017. Measurements: All-cause 30-day mortality and 30-day hospital readmission. NIHSS score was derived from ICD-10 codes and stratified into the following: minor to moderate, moderate, moderate to severe, and severe categories. Results: Among 43,241 patients with ischemic stroke with NIHSS from 2,659 US hospitals, 64.6% had minor to moderate stroke, 14.3% had moderate, 12.7% had moderate to severe, and 8.5% had a severe stroke,10.1% died within 30 days, 12.1% were readmitted within 30 days. The NIHSS exhibited stronger discriminant property (C-statistic 0.83, 95% CI: 0.82–0.84) for 30-day mortality compared to Elixhauser (0.74, 95% CI: 0.73–0.75). A monotonic increase in the adjusted 30-day mortality risk occurred relative to minor to moderate stroke category: hazard ratio [HR]=2.92 (95% CI=2.59–3.29) for moderate stroke, HR=5.49 (95% CI=4.90–6.15) for moderate to severe stroke, and HR=7.82 (95% CI=6.95–8.80) for severe stroke. After accounting for competing risk of mortality, there was a significantly higher readmission risk in the moderate stroke (HR=1.11, 95% CI=1.03–1.20), but significantly lower readmission risk in the severe stroke (HR=0.84, 95% CI=0.74–0.95) categories. Limitation: Timing of NIHSS reporting during hospitalization is unknown. Conclusions: Medicare claim–based NIHSS is significantly associated with 30-day mortality in Medicare patients with ischemic stroke and significantly improves discriminant property relative to the Elixhauser comorbidity index.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2719-2726
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • CMS
  • Elixhauser
  • administrative data
  • competing risk
  • stroke severity
  • survival analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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