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Thread: Spinal Surgery Coding

  1. #1

    Question Spinal Surgery Coding

    AAPC: Back to School
    I have a spine specialist in my group and when he does his major surgeries he bills 22851, 20926, 22585 and 22614 multiple times for the various levels. Any recommendations on how we can get these paid? We have tried several different ways and they always get denied. Any help will be helpful.

  2. #2

    Smile mleckrone

    Hi .. are you billing these procedure on separate lines? If so I would recommend that you bill the add on codes with units rather then use separate line items. Some payers however, would prefer separate lines, but Medicare will honor the units. If billing separate lines use the modifer 59 for the addional lines.

  3. #3


    For multiple spinal surgery you will need a modifier 51 per CMS guidelines.


  4. #4


    I dont agree with the modifier 51, add on codes are modifier 51 exempt and it would not be appropriate to use 51, you are encouraging the insurance carrier to reduce the add ons by 50%. There shouldnt be any reduction on add on codes. Some carriers want multiple units of add on codes billed with multiple units, some want them billed per line with the 59 modifier added.

  5. #5


    Put a 59 on add on codes????? Really? I was taught that no modifiers go on add on codes. I think that's what is causing the confusion in my office.

  6. #6


    All the codes you gave were not add on codes. IT is the rule, you have to apply a 51 modifier to multiple surgery codes for price reduction, if you don't, then you will be an auditors dream. Also, modifiers can be added to add on codes, such as 22, 52, and others. Definitely not a 51. You shouldn't be using a 59 modifier anyway for surgery. Also,list the highest surgery cost first.

  7. #7


    Again, I disagree. You do not add 51 to add on codes, all of the codes listed except 20926 were add on codes and yes you can add a 59 modifier to add on codes if that is what your insurance requires. You will not be audited and if you are as long as what you are billing is properly documented you do not have anything to worry about. At the AANS seminar they will tell you to use a 59 on add on codes in some cases. I just sent a case I needed help on to one of the presenters of the AANS seminar who we contract for coding help. It was a 3 level anterior fusion and disckectomy. She said to bill this as: 22551, 22552, 22552 - 59, 22846 and 20931 OR 22551, 22552 x 2, 22846 and 20931 depending on the insurance companies. They tell you to due this in the seminar as well. Also, I dont understand why it would be suggested to not use a 59 modifier for surgery, you wouldnt use a 59 modifier except for surgery codes.

  8. #8


    We do use 51 on our codes that are not 51 exempt. We will have to disagree on the modifier issue as I still stand by the coding advice given by presenters at the AANS seminar. Also, we did have a routine audit of our office done by BCBS and nothing had to be paid back, no errors in our coding were found. The best advice I can give to the original question is to check with your carrier about what they find acceptable as far as modifiers go, with all modifiers it may be dependent on the carrier. Just like to certain carriers we would bill 80 AS or 82 AS for the physician assistant at surgery, some carriers we bill units, some we bill per line item with the 59. There is one Medicare carrier, (not ours), that does not want 51 added to any of their codes because it is often used incorrectly. Thanks to the original question, banderson 77, for bringing up this topic!

  9. #9


    This is what and how we billed the following 3 surgeries:

    Patient #1:
    22551, 22845, 20926, 20926-59, 22851, 22851-59

    Patient #2 1st sx:
    22558, 20926, 20926-59, 20926-59, 20926-59, 22851, 22851-59, 22851-59, 22851-59, 22851-59, 22585, 38220, 20936, 20936-59

    Patient #2 2nd sx:
    22612, 22842, 20926, 20926-59, 22614, 22614, 22614, 22614, 22614

    Just to make sure that I have this correct, the "multiples" use units instead of lines? The insurances are just not paying the procedures.

  10. #10


    I would definitely bill as units then instead of lines, bcbs will only take units, they deny as a dup if we bill by line.

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