Advance: Appending Modifiers 50, 51, and 59

Modifiers are crucial to telling the story of a claim by identifying procedures that have been altered, without changing the core meaning of the code(s) submitted. AAPC’s National Advisory Board Member Relations Officer Nancy Clark, CPC, CPB, CPMA, CPC-I,  recently published an article in Advance for Health Information Professionals, in which she expounded on the proper application of modifiers 50, 51, and 59. Ms. Clark provided examples, tables, and even comparisons between modifiers.

  • Modifier 50 Bilateral procedure describes procedures or services that take place on identical, opposing structures (e.g., shoulder joints, breasts, eyes).
  • Use modifier 51 Multiple procedures to show that the same provider performed multiple procedures (other than E/M services) during the same session.
  • Modifier 59 Distinct procedural service indicates a:
    • Different encounter or session;
    • Different procedure;
    • Different site; or
    • Separate incision, excision, injury, lesion, or body part.

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