CPT Modifier 78 & Modifier 79 | Usage Guidelines
Modifier 79 Unrelated Procedure or Service by the Same Physician During the Postoperative Period:
Modifier 78 Unplanned Return to the Operating/Procedure Room by the Same Physician or Other Qualified Health Care Professional Following Initial Procedure for a Related Procedure During the Postoperative Period Anesthesia, CCI Editing, Global Days, Multiple Procedure Reduction, Rebundling
The physician may need to indicate that the performance of a procedure or service during the postoperative period was unrelated to the original procedure. This circumstance may be reported by using the modifier 79. (For repeat procedures on the same day, see modifier 76).
POST-OPERATIVE PERIOD BILLING GUIDELINES
Unrelated Procedure or Service or E/M Service by the Same Physician During a Post-operative Period
Two CPT modifiers are used to simplify billing for visits and other procedures that are furnished during the post-operative period of a surgical procedure, but not included in the payment for surgical procedure. These modifiers are:
Modifier “-79” (Unrelated procedure or service by the same physician during a post-operative period).
The physician may need to indicate that a procedure or service furnished during a post-operative period was unrelated to the original procedure. A new post-operative period begins when the unrelated procedure is billed.
Return to the OR for a Related Procedure during the Post-Operative Period
When treatment for complications requires a return trip to the operating room, physicians bill the CPT code that describes the procedure(s) performed during the return trip. If no such code exists, the physician should use the unspecified procedure code in the correct series, which is, 47999 or 64999. The procedure code for the original surgery is not used except when the identical procedure is repeated.
In addition to the CPT code, physicians report modifier “-78” (Unplanned return to the operating or procedure room by the same physician following initial procedure for a related procedure during the post-operative period).
The physician may also need to indicate that another procedure was performed during the post-operative period of the initial procedure. When this subsequent procedure is related to the first procedure, and requires the use of the operating room, this circumstance may be reported by adding the modifier “-78” to the related procedure.
NOTE: The CPT definition for modifier “-78” does not limit its use to treatment for complications.
Modifier 78 may not be used with place of service 11 (office). Modifier 78 requires a return to the operating room or procedure room (e.g. Cath Lab, Interventional Radiology Procedure Room, Endoscopy Room).
Unrelated Procedures or Visits during the Postoperative Period
Modifier 79 reports an unrelated procedure by the same physician during a postoperative period. The physician may need to indicate that the performance of a procedure or service during a postoperative period was unrelated to the original procedure.
When the next surgical procedure is billed a new postoperative period begins.
Modifiers 58, 78, and 79 are not valid to use with or attach to evaluation and management (E/M) procedure codes. Modifiers 58, 78, and 79 are considered valid for procedures with a Global Days indicator setting of 010 or 090. Modifiers 58, 78, and 79 are not considered valid for procedures with a Global Days indicator setting of 000, XXX, or ZZZ.
Modifiers 58, 78, and 79 are mutually exclusive to one another; only one of these modifiers may apply to a service or procedure performed within a postoperative global period. Services may not be “unrelated” to the procedure code creating the postoperative global period and also “related” to another procedure code performed by the same physician during that same original surgical session.
A septoplasty (30520, 90-day global) and a functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS, 0-day or 10-day global) are performed during the same surgical session. An endoscopic sinus debridement (31237, S2342) is performed in the office 14 days later.
Because the debridement is related to the FESS, then it is also related to the septoplasty, and the 90-day global period applies to the post-operative sinus debridement.
Multiple Procedures During the Same Surgical Session Modifiers 78 and 79 should not be used to distinguish multiple procedure codes performed during the same operative session. The postoperative period does not begin until the surgical session ends. This is not a valid use of modifier 78 or 79, and represents a billing error.
During the initial surgery performed by this provider, a variety of procedures are performed on multiple skin lesions in multiple locations during the same surgical session. Neither modifier 78 nor modifier 79 should be attached to the procedure codes for the second and third lesions treated.
Treatment of a second, separate lesion is correctly identified with the Distinct Procedural Service modifier (-59).