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Orthopedic Coding Alert

Reader Questions:

Obesity May Not Merit Mod 22

Question: Should I append modifier 22 for bimalleolar fracture treatment when the patient is obese? Texas Subscriber Answer: The fact that the patient is obese is not enough reason to append modifier 22 (Increased procedural services) to a procedure code (such as 27814, Open treatment of bimalleolar ankle fracture [e.g., lateral and medial malleoli, or lateral and posterior malleoli, or medial and posterior malleoli], includes internal fixation, when performed). But if the surgeon documents how the patient's obesity increased the complexity of that particular case, you may have support for appending the modifier. Best bet: In a separate paragraph, the surgeon should give the specifics of how much more time, skill, or work (such as finding appropriate positioning for the patient) the procedure required because of the patient's obesity. Tip: Put the support for modifier 22 at the beginning of the op note so the claims reviewer can't miss it. You also should include documentation of the extra time and work in the letter you send supporting the claim. The surgeon also should document the patient's body mass index (BMI). You should indicate the BMI on the claim using the appropriate code from the 278.0X (Overweight and obesity) range and the matching V code (V85.0-V85.54, Body Mass Index). In addition to the obesity code, you should report the appropriate fracture code (such as 824.4, Fracture of ankle; bimalleolar, closed). Remember, you should sequence the fracture diagnosis first.