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Thread: Impacted cerumen and removal with curette

  1. #1

    Question Impacted cerumen and removal with curette

    AAPC: Back to School
    Patient came in with impacted cerumen in left ear. The physician states that pt. does have impacted cerumen and removes the cerumen with an ear curette. Is this part of the E/M or can I code 69210 since the physician did use the curette? Or does this code require use of an otoscope as well as the curette?

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by JulesofColorado; 10-06-2009 at 10:17 AM.
    Julianne Sheetz, CPC

  2. #2


    Hi Julianne,
    Per CPT assistant the MD need s to use an otoscope as well as the curette (see below)

    CPT assistant 2005
    In collaboration with the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), we present the following discussion which provides some typical coding scenarios with regard to the appropriate use and application of CPT codes related to ear wax removal:

    1. The patient presents to the office for the removal of "ear wax" by the nurse via irrigation or lavage.

    2. The patient presents to the office for the removal of "ear wax" by the primary care physician via irrigation or lavage.

    3. The patient presents to the office for "ear wax" removal as the presenting complaint. This is described as impacted cerumen because it completely covers the eardrum and the patient has hearing loss. The impacted cerumen is removed by the primary care physician or otolaryngologist with magnification provided by an otoscope or operating microscope and instruments such as wax curettes, forceps, and suction.


    Are these procedures appropriately reported with CPT code 69210, Removal impacted cerumen (separate procedure), one or both ears?

    AMA Comment:

    A major element in determining whether code 69210 should be reported is understanding the definition of impacted cerumen. By definition of the AAO-HNS,

    "If any one or more of the following are present, cerumen should be considered 'impacted' clinically:

    • Visual considerations: Cerumen impairs exam of clinically significant portions of the external auditory canal, tympanic membrane, or middle ear condition.

    • Qualitative considerations: Extremely hard, dry, irritative cerumen causing symptoms such as pain, itching, hearing loss, etc.

    • Inflammatory considerations: Associated with foul odor, infection, or dermatitis.

    • Quantitative considerations: Obstructive, copious cerumen that cannot be removed without magnification and multiple instrumentations requiring physician skills."

    Other issues may also require consideration. Removing wax that is not impacted does not warrant the reporting of CPT code 69210. Rather, that work would appropriately be captured by an evaluation and management (E/M) code regardless of how it is removed. If, however, the wax is truly impacted, then its removal should be reported with 69210 if performed by a physician using at minimum an otoscope and instruments such as wax curettes or, in the case of many otolaryngologists, with an operating microscope and suction plus specific ear instruments (eg, cup forceps, right angles). Accompanying documentation should indicate the time, effort, and equipment required to provide the service. Add-on code 69990, Microsurgical techniques, requiring use of operating microscope (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure), should not be reported if the operating microscope is used for cerumen removal. In this later instance, however, code 92504, Binocular microscopy (separate diagnostic procedure), may be reported.

    Therefore, based on this information, scenarios 1 and 2 would not be reported with code 69210. These scenarios would be captured by the appropriate E/M code. Scenario 3, however, should be reported with code 69210 because both criteria were met; the patient had cerumen impaction and the removal required physician work using at least an otoscope and instrumentation rather than simple lavage.

    CPT Assistant © Copyright 1990-2009, American Medical Association. All
    rights reserved.
    Robin Ingalls-Fitzgerald CCS, CPC, FCS, CEMC, CEDC

  3. #3


    Thanks so much Robin. I was really stumped on this one!
    Julianne Sheetz, CPC

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