Source: Urology Coding Alert
Uro-oncology: 3 Tips Help Solidify Your Brachytherapy Coding
Differentiate seeds and markers before choosing 55875 or 55876.
Brachytherapy seed placement coding challenges even veteran coders because your urologist will likely work with another physician on the treatment, which limits what you can report. Overcome these challenges with three expert tips, and avoid costly brachytherapy denials.
1. Skip Separate Cysto Coding
Traditionally, your urologist -- rather than the radiologist -- will place the needles to implant the brachytherapy seeds. You’ll report this service with 55875 (Transperineal placement of needles or catheters into prostate for interstitial radioelement application, with or without cystoscopy), says Michael A. Ferragamo, MD, FACS, clinical assistant professor of urology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Don’t miss: Pay special attention to the fact that 55875’s descriptor says “with or without cystoscopy.” Your urologist may perform a cystoscopic examination to determine whether any seeds have been misplaced into the bladder or prostatic urethra. Even though he performed a cystoscopic examination and may have a separate diagnosis (such as history of hematuria) indicating medical necessity for the procedure, you still cannot separately report 52000 (Cystourethroscopy [separate procedure]).
According to the Correct Coding Initiative (CCI) 16.1, Medicare bundles 52000 into 55875,and you cannot bypass the edit with a modifier, Ferragamo stresses. Remember, however, some private and commercial payers may reimburse for the cystoscopic examination, so check with your individual payers.
Additionally: If your urologist uses ultrasonic guidance to place the needles, you should report 76965 (Ultrasonic guidance for interstitial radioelement application) in addition to 55875. Append modifier 26 (Professional component) to indicate that your urologist performed only the professional component. Because this procedure is usually performed in a hospital, the facility will bill for the technical component.
2. Avoid the 55875 vs. 55876 Pitfall
You might be tempted to report 55876 (Placement of interstitial device[s] for radiation therapy guidance [e.g., fiducial markers, dosimeter], percutaneous, prostate, single or multiple) for brachytherapy claims. According to the May 2007 CPT Assistant, however, you should report 55876 only when your urologist implants metallic marker seeds (also called fiducial markers) -- not brachytherapy needles or seeds -- into the prostate gland.
The difference: “Code 55876 is a placement of markers for measuring radiation doses or targeting radiation treatment,” says Linda Cahill, CPC, clinical coordinator/lead coder, for MidWest Urology Inc. in Cincinnati. “The markers are visible by ultrasound and fluoroscopy, allowing an accurate triangulation of the tissue to be treated. This code reports the insertion of one or more of these capsules or markers.”
In contrast: “Code 55875 is the placement of needles or catheters for the interstitial radioelement application/brachytherapy,” Cahill explains. “The urologist would place the needles or catheters, and the radiation oncologist would place the radioactive isotopes or seeds [via these needles] into the prostate gland.”
3. Scour Documentation for Division of Services
Typically, your urologist will work with a radiation oncologist to treat prostatic carcinoma with brachytherapy. Therefore, you need to pay extra attention to which physician performed which procedure so that you code only those services your urologist provided.
If your urologist works with a radiation oncologist during a prostatic brachytherapy procedure, the physician who places the needles or catheters into the prostate and typically performs the cystoscopy should report 55875. If both physicians report the code, the payer will deny one of the claims.
For example, the radiation oncologist will report 77778 (Interstitial radiation source application; complex) if he places the seeds using intracavitary radiation source application.
Don’t assume: Although the radiation oncologist may perform an additional volume study (76873, Ultrasound, transrectal; prostate volume study for brachytherapy treatment planning [separate procedure]) during treatment planning, the urologist may also elect to perform this volume study himself, provided he has the necessary special equipment. He may perform this study prior to seed insertion or at the time of seed implantation. If your physician does perform the volume study himself, you should code for it. If performed in a hospital, bill 76873-26, for interpreting and applying the test results.
Bottom line: Every case -- and every practice -- is different.Make sure you’re checking the documentation to see which physician performed each service before you automatically code. Report only the services and procedures your urologist performed.