BACKGROUND: In the United States, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed 20 Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) to measure the occurrence of hospital adverse events from medico-administrative data coded according to the ninth revision of the international classification of disease (ICD-9-CM). The adaptation of these PSIs to the WHO version of ICD-10 was carried out by an international consortium. METHODS: Two independent teams transcoded ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes proposed by the AHRQ into ICD-10-WHO. Using a Delphi process, experts from six countries evaluated each code independently, stating whether it was "included", "excluded" or "uncertain". During a two-day meeting, the experts then discussed the codes that had not obtained a consensus, and the additional codes proposed. RESULTS: Fifteen PSIs were adapted. Among the 2569 proposed diagnosis codes, 1775 were unanimously adopted straightaway. The 794 remaining codes and 2541 additional codes were discussed. Three documents were prepared: (1) a list of ICD-10-WHO codes for the 15 adapted PSIs; (2) recommendations to the AHRQ for the improvement of the nosological frame and the coding of PSI with ICD-9-CM; (3) recommendations to the WHO to improve ICD-10. CONCLUSIONS: This work allows international comparisons of PSIs among the countries using ICD-10. Nevertheless, these PSIs must still be evaluated further before being broadly used.