Ob-Gyn Coding Alert


Your Ob-Gyn Can Get Paid for Extensive Adhesiolysis, But Here’s What Documentation You Need

Here’s why you need to have modifier 22 handy.

If you consider reporting lysis of adhesions and receiving reimbursement for this service mythical in nature, you’re not alone. But here’s the reality: You can get paid separately for the lysis if the adhesions are extensive. Here’s how.

Pelvic Adhesions Defined: Pelvic adhesions are bands of fibrous scar tissue that can form in the abdomen and pelvis after surgery or due to infection. Because adhesions connect organs and tissue that are normally separated, they can lead to a variety of complications, including pelvic pain, infertility and bowel obstruction. Adhesions commonly form on the ovaries, pelvic sidewalls and fallopian tubes.

Check Out These Adhesiolysis CPT® Codes

Although ob-gyns generally deal with lysis of adhesions in only four sites, CPT® provides six codes for the associated procedures:

  • 44005 (Enterolysis (freeing of intestinal adhesion) (separate procedure))
  • 44180 (Laparoscopy, surgical, enterolysis (freeing of intestinal adhesion) (separate procedure))
  • 56441 (Lysis of labial adhesions)
  • 58559 (Hysteroscopy, surgical; with lysis of intrauterine adhesions (any method))
  • 58660 (Laparoscopy, surgical; with lysis of adhesions (salpingolysis, ovariolysis) (separate procedure))
  • 58740 (Lysis of adhesions (salpingolysis, ovariolysis))

Generally, you won’t use these codes if the ob-gyn does anything else, experts say. Rationale: They are included in the primary procedure when the surgeon removes them to access the surgical site.

You should separately report adhesiolysis when performed with another procedure(s) only when:

1. lysis of adhesions is extensive, or

2. the adhesions are in a different anatomic site from the main procedure(s).

Consider Mod 22 for Extensive, Nonincluded Lysis

If the lysis of adhesions is extensive and the National Correct Coding Initiative (CCI) or other bundling software includes this extensive service in the primary procedure, you should add modifier 22 (Increased procedural services) to the primary procedure code.

You should use modifier 22 only rarely. Caution: Every surgeon has cases that are harder than average and ones that are easier, and just because a case is more extensive or time-consuming than another is not sufficient reason to use modifier 22.

To report modifier 22, you should have supporting documentation that details the physician’s extensive time and work effort. Modifier 22 will most certainly initiate a request for information from your carriers, so make sure the operative report substantiates the claim.

The following tips will help you pin down when you should report lysis of adhesions separately.

Tip 1: Separate Codable From Noncodable

When determining whether you should code adhesiolysis in addition to the primary procedure, you first have to examine the ob-gyn’s documentation. Carriers usually don’t reimburse separately for removing soft, filmy adhesions by blunt dissection when the physician performs the lysis with other procedures. Documentation must describe the significant work associated with the removal (using sharp dissection and sometimes laser) of adhesions that are dense, very adherent and have a blood supply.

Example: The ob-gyn documents that he performed a salpingostomy on the right side and did lysis on the right tube. For this, you would report 58770 (Salpingostomy [salpingoneostomy]) along with 58740. No NCCI bundle prevents billing both codes, so you can report them both — so long as your physician’s documentation is detailed and supports this. Remember that if he has to do the lysis to access the tube in order to do the salpingostomy, the payer may decide to bundle these procedures if they see the documentation.

Tip 2: Differentiate Bowel and Pelvic Adhesions

Establishing where the surgeon lysed the adhesions is the next major step to determine which code to select. If the ob-gyn performed adhesiolysis of the bowel, you would report 44005 or 44180, if appropriate, depending on the approach, says Carol Pohlig, BSN, RN, CPC, ACS, senior coding and education specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. If the physician lysed pelvic adhesions, you should submit 58660 or 58740, if appropriate, depending on the adhesions’ exact location, she adds.

Example: The surgeon notes that during a laparotomy, he encounters dense adhesions involving the bowel and omentum, which require two hours of adhesiolysis and enterolysis to adequately expose the uterus and pelvis so he could perform a hysterectomy. Based on this information, you might incorrectly report 44005 in addition to 58150 (Total abdominal hysterectomy [corpus and cervix], with or without removal of tube[s], with or without removal of ovary[s]).

But NCCI bundles 44005 into 58150 with a “0” modifier indicator, meaning no modifier can override the edit, Pohlig says. Therefore, you should report the extra work involved with the extensive adhesiolysis by appending modifier 22 to 58150.

Tip 3: Learn When Adhesiolysis Changes Approach

Occasionally, an ob-gyn attempts a procedure laparoscopically, but because of extensive adhesions, he must change to an open approach to complete the surgery. In this case, Medicare rules-- and those of the many payers that follow Medicare-- bundle the laparoscopy into the open procedure, so you can’t report it separately. The only option is to report the converted procedure as the primary surgery appended with modifier 22.

Suppose the ob-gyn surgeon inserts the laparoscope intending to perform a transvaginal sling (51992, Laparoscopy, surgical; sling operation for stress incontinence (eg, fascia or synthetic)). Upon inserting the scope, he finds massive adhesions on the bowel’s left side adhering not only the bowel to the pelvic sidewall but also the left tube and ovary. The right side is even worse. After attempting to remove the adhesions for an hour with little success, the physician decides to convert to a vaginal approach to complete the procedure.

Because the surgeon took significant additional time attempting to perform the procedure laparoscopically, you should report 57288-22 (Sling operation for stress incontinence [eg, fascia or synthetic]; Increased procedural services). “Quantifying the additional time and specifying the increased effort in the documentation is crucial for reimbursement success,” Pohlig says. Words to look for in the record might include “very difficult,” “unusually difficult,” and so on.

In addition to reporting the time in the procedure note, include a cover letter that compares the additional time and effort to the average time and effort the procedure usually takes, Hollis says. The details that made the procedure difficult provide a better level of understanding to the insurance reviewer who may not be aware of the typical efforts involved in the procedure.

Tip 4: Estimate Dollar Amount When Using Mod 22

Experts say if you are not adding a dollar amount before submitting to your carriers, you are doing yourself a disservice.

When submitting a claim that includes modifier 22, you should include an estimate of what you expect to be paid for the extra work involved in the procedure. Otherwise, you are leaving the decision up to the carriers, and they will potentially base your reimbursement on their standard allowable. Including a dollar amount doesn’t mean the payer will reimburse based on your charge, but as with all submissions, you don’t want to leave the decision entirely up to the carrier.