General Surgery Coding Alert

You Be the Coder:

Distinguish Venipuncture Codes

Question: What is the difference between venipuncture codes 36400-36410, 36420-36425, and 36415 other than patient age?

New Mexico Subscriber

Answer: According to the CPT® guidelines, only a physician or other qualified healthcare professional can perform venipuncture described by 36400 (Venipuncture, younger than age 3 years, necessitating the skill of a physician or other qualified health care professional, not to be used for routine venipuncture; femoral or jugular vein) through 36410 (Venipuncture, age 3 years or older, necessitating the skill of a physician or other qualified health care professional (separate procedure), for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes (not to be used for routine venipuncture)). That means you can use these codes if you surgeon or another qualified person in your practice such as a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA) performs the service. Don’t use these codes for venipuncture by clinical staff such as a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Here’s why: Services such as 36400 through 36410 are more medically complex than the routine venipuncture service described by 36415 (Collection of venous blood by venipuncture). That’s why a physician or other qualified healthcare professional must perform the procedures.

The next difference between the codes is anatomic, though it is also age-related. Codes 36400 through 36406 (… other vein) are for children under the age of three, and as veins in children that young are often difficult to locate, each code specifies the location of larger veins that are easier to find in children of that age. Use 36400 specifically for a blood draw from the femoral or jugular vein, 36405 (… scalp vein) from the scalp vein, and 36406 from veins other than the ones listed.

Then, there are two codes — 36420 (Venipuncture, cutdown; younger than age 1 year) and 36425 (… age 1 or over) — that describe a procedure that is also more complex than venipuncture. In this service, the provider must access a vein to take a blood sample or inject medication into the patient by incising the skin rather than simply puncturing it.

Therapeutic: While all you can use all these codes for collecting blood specimens for diagnostic purposes, you can use only one — 36410 — for therapeutic purposes to treat certain diseases of the blood as its descriptor states. This also explains the other language of the code’s descriptor, which tells you not to use 36410 “for routine venipunctures.”