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Coding Corner: Brachytherapy Coding | James J. Burke II, MD

Coding ToolsCoding
Feb 21, 2019

There are instances when gynecologic oncologists are called to assist with brachytherapy as part of the treatment of patients with cervical, vaginal or recurrent endometrial carcinomas. However, medical coding for the work of these procedures is not straightforward as specific Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes do not exist.  Below are vignettes where a gynecologic oncologist may assist with brachytherapy procedures and how those procedures might be coded.

Case number 1: The patient is a 47-year-old female with stage IIIB, grade 3 squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix who is undergoing radiation with concurrent chemotherapy. She is now ready for her brachytherapy and the radiation oncologist has asked for you to place a Smit sleeve (HDR stent) to aid in placement of tandem and ovoids for her brachytherapy. There are several ways to code for the work of these procedures:

  1. The gynecologic oncologist and the radiation oncologist perform the procedure together. The gynecologic oncologist performs a cervical dilatation and secures the Smit sleeve (HDR stent) with sutures while the radiation oncologist places the tandem and ovoids for the brachytherapy radiation. The most appropriate code coding for the procedure would be for the gynecologic oncologist and the radiation oncologist both to bill 57155 (Insertion of uterine tandem and/or vaginal ovoids for clinical brachytherapy) and use a -62 modifier because two physicians are working together. The gynecologic oncologist cannot bill for the cervical dilatation (57800) as it is considered part of the 57155 code.
  2. The radiation oncologist asks the gynecologic oncologist to place a Smit sleeve for brachytherapy. The most appropriate way to code this procedure is to use the 57155 code with a -52 modifier to reflect reduced work for the procedure (the gynecologic oncologist is not placing the tandem and ovoid). You cannot bill for the cervical dilatation (57800) for the same reason as mentioned above. If the gynecologic oncologist places the tandem and ovoid, the appropriate code would be 57155 without a modifier as the entire procedure would be carried out by one physician.

Case number 2: A 65-year-old female patient with stage IB, grade 1 endometrioid carcinoma of the endometrium is found to have recurrent disease with a solitary nodule at the vaginal cuff. The patient has had no prior radiotherapy. The gynecologic oncologist takes the patient to the operating room where the lesion is excised from the vaginal apex and fiducial markers are placed in the periphery of the resection for radiation planning. The excision would be coded as a simple partial vaginectomy, 57106, and 49411 for placement of fiducial markers into the vaginal tissue at the vaginal apex.

Case number 3: The patient is an 81-year-old female patient with a stage IB, grade 3 endometrioid carcinoma of the endometrium was recommended to have vaginal brachytherapy for adjuvant treatment. The gynecologic oncologist placed the vaginal cylinder for her vaginal brachytherapy treatment. The most appropriate code for this work is 57156.

Case number 4: The patient is a 58-year-old female with stage IIIB, grade 2 squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina. The patient has completed her external beam radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy and is now ready for her brachytherapy. The gynecologic oncologist has been asked to assist in placement of the interstitial needles for brachytherapy. The radiation oncologist places the interstitial needles, transperineal. The gynecologic oncologist performs a laparoscopic procedure to help guide placement of the needles. The radiation oncologist would code 55920 for placement of the interstitial device and the gynecologic oncologist would code 49320 for a diagnostic laparoscopy.

James J. Burke II, MD, is an Associate Professor and Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, GA.

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