Orthopedic Coding Alert

3 Strategies Help You Code Bone Biopsy Procedures Correctly


- Published on Mon, Sep 26, 2005

You may be able to report both lesion biopsy and excision


If your insurer's policy still refers to 20240 and 20245 as -excisional- bone biopsy codes, you may be left scratching your head when your surgeon dictates an incisional biopsy procedure. Before you scour CPT for the accurate bone biopsy codes, check out the following three strategies that can make your bone biopsy coding error-free.
 
Step 1: Same Code Describes Excisional, Incisional Biopsies


Because CPT doesn't always specify exactly what your surgeon performed, you may not be able to nail down the appropriate bone biopsy code without looking further into the surgeon's notes.

Consider the following scenario: The surgeon identifies a bone lesion on the tibia and takes the patient to the OR. The physician makes an incision, takes a sample from the lesion and sends the sample to pathology. After pathology confirms that the lesion is not malignant, the surgeon curettes the lesion.

Coding challenges: Which code should you report for the biopsy? And can you report the benign tumor curettage as well? 

Although some insurers still refer to the 20240 (Biopsy, bone, open; superficial [e.g., ilium, sternum, spinous process, ribs, trochanter of femur]) series as excisional biopsy codes, CPT clearly identifies 20240 as an -open- procedure. You can, however, report 20240 and 20245 (-deep [e.g., humerus, ischium, femur]) for both incisional and excisional biopsies, says Jay Neal, an independent coding and billing consultant in Atlanta.

Proof: According to the August 2004 CPT Assistant , -Code 20240 was editorially revised for CPT 2004 to clarify that it may be reported to describe an excisional or an incisional biopsy because the work involved in performing an incisional bone biopsy is the same as that involved in performing an excisional bone biopsy. Prior to this revision, no reporting mechanism for an incisional bone biopsy existed.-


Step 2: Biopsy Results Dictate Excision Coding


Once you identify 20240 as the appropriate code choice for the biopsy, you-ll need to determine whether you can also report the curettage.
 
Good news: According to National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) guidelines, because the surgeon couldn't proceed with the excision until he knew the results of the biopsy, you can report both codes, says Leslie Follebout, CPC, coding department supervisor at Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates in Salisbury, Md.

NCCI dictates, -In the circumstance where the decision to perform the more comprehensive procedure (excision, destruction, removal, repair or fixation procedure) is dependent on the results of the biopsy procedure, the biopsy procedure may be separately reported.-

Therefore, you should report 20240 along with 27635 (Excision or curettage of bone cyst or benign tumor, tibia or fibula) to describe both procedures. If the patient is a Medicare beneficiary, you should [...]

Orthopedic Coding Alert
Issue - Sep, 2005
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