Management & Compliance for Large/Academic Pathology Practices
Part 3 -
Pathology and Laboratory Services CPT Codes 80000 - 89999
Black-Schaffer & Johnson
PATHOLOGY / LABORATORY SERVICES
CPT CODES 80000 - 89999
FOR NATIONAL CORRECT CODING INITIATIVE POLICY MANUAL
FOR MEDICARE SERVICES
CPT codes Copyrightę 2004 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), formerly the Health Care Financing
Administration, is responsible for the content of this product. No endorsement by the American Medical
Association (AMA) is intended or should be implied. The AMA disclaims responsibility for any
consequences or liability attributable to or related to any uses, non-use, or interpretation of
information contained or not contained in this product. These Correct Coding Policies do not supersede
any other specific Medicare coding, coverage, or payment policies.
Chapter X - Pathology and Laboratory Services
CPT Codes 80000 - 89999
Pathology and laboratory CPT coding includes services primarily reported to evaluate specimens
obtained from patients (body fluids, cytological specimens, or tissue specimens obtained by
invasive/surgical procedures) in order to provide information to the treating physician. This
information, coupled with information obtained from history and examination findings and other data,
provides the physician with the background upon which medical decision making is established.
Generally, pathology and laboratory specimens are prepared and/or screened by laboratory personnel
with a pathologist assuming responsibility for the integrity of the results generated by the laboratory.
Certain types of specimens and tests are reviewed personally by the pathologist. CPT coding for this
section includes few codes requiring patient contact or evaluation and management services rendered
directly by the pathologist. On the occasion that a pathologist provides evaluation and management
services (significant, separately identifiable, patient care services that satisfy the criteria set forth
in the E & M guidelines developed by CMS, formerly HCFA, and the AMA), appropriate coding should be
rendered from the evaluation and management section of the CPT Manual.
If, after a test is ordered and performed, additional related procedures are necessary to provide or
verify the result, these would be considered part of the ordered test. For example, if a patient with
leukemia has a thrombocytopenia, and a manual platelet count (CPT code 85032) is performed in addition to
the performance of an automated hemogram with automated platelet count (CPT code 85027), it would be
inappropriate to report CPT codes 85032 and 85027 because the former provides verification for the
automated hemogram and platelet count (CPT code 85027). As another example, if a patient has an abnormal
test result and repeat performance of the test is done to verify the result, the test is reported as one
unit of service rather than two.
If a treating physician orders an automated complete blood count with automated differential WBC count
(CPT code 85025) or without automated differential WBC count (CPT code 85027), the laboratory sometimes
examines a blood smear in order to complete the ordered test based on laboratory selected criteria
flagging the results for additional verification. The laboratory should NOT report CPT code 85007
(microscopic blood smear examination with manual WBC differential count) or CPT code 85008 (microscopic
blood smear examination without manual WBC differential count) for the examination of a blood smear to
complete the ordered automated hemogram test (CPT codes 85025 or 85027). The same principle applies if
the treating physician orders any type of blood count and the laboratory's practice is to perform an
automated complete blood count with or without automated differential WBC count.
If a treating physician orders an automated hemogram (CPT code 85027) and a manual differential WBC
count (CPT code 85007), both codes may be reported. However, a provider may not report an automated
hemogram with automated differential WBC count (CPT code 85025) with a manual differential WBC count (CPT
code 85007) because this combination of codes results in duplicate payment for the differential WBC
count. CMS does not pay twice for the same laboratory test result even if performed by two different
methods unless the two methods are medically reasonable and necessary.
By contrast some laboratory tests if positive require additional separate follow-up testing which is
implicit in the physician's order. For example, if an RBC antibody screen (CPT code 86850) is positive,
the laboratory routinely proceeds to identify the RBC antibody. The latter testing is separately
reportable. Similarly, if a urine culture is positive, the laboratory proceeds to organism
identification testing which is separately reportable. In these cases, the initial positive results have
limited clinical value without the additional testing. The additional testing is separately reportable
because it is not performed to complete the ordered test. Furthermore, the ordered test if positive
requires the additional testing in order to have clinical value. This type of testing is a category of
reflex testing that must be distinguished from other reflex testing performed on a positive test result
which may have clinical value without additional testing. An example of a latter type of test is a serum
protein electrophoresis with a monoclonal protein band. A laboratory should not routinely perform serum
immunofixation or serum immunoelectrophoresis to identify the type of monoclonal protein unless ordered
by the treating physician. If the patient has a known monoclonal gammopathy, perhaps identified at
another laboratory, the serum immunofixation or immunoelectrophoresis would not be appropriate unless
ordered by the treating physician.
B. Organ or Disease Oriented Panels
The CPT Manual assigns CPT codes to organ or disease oriented panels
consisting of a group of specified tests. If all tests of a CPT defined panel are performed, the
provider may bill the panel code or the individual component test codes. The panel codes may be used
when the tests are ordered as that panel or if the individual component tests of a panel are ordered
separately. For example, if the individually ordered tests are cholesterol (CPT code 82465),
triglycerides (CPT code 84478), and HDL cholesterol (CPT code 83718), the service could be billed as a
lipid panel (CPT code 80061).
C. Evocative/Suppression Testing
Evocative/suppression testing involves administration of agents to determine a patient's response to
those agents (CPT codes 80400-80440 are to be used for reporting the laboratory components of the
testing). When the test requires physician administration of the evocative/suppression agent as
described by HCPCS/CPT codes 90783, G0345-G0354 (90760-90775 in 2006) (therapeutic/diagnostic
injections/infusions), these codes can be separately reported. However, when physician attendance is not
required, and the agent is administered by ancillary personnel, these codes are not to be separately
reported. In the inpatient setting, these codes are only reported if the physician performs the service
personally. In the office setting, the service can be reported when performed by office personnel if the
physician is directly supervising the service. While supplies necessary to perform the testing are
included in the testing, the appropriate HCPCS J codes for the drugs can be separately reported for the
diagnostic agents. Separate evaluation and management services are not to be reported, including
prolonged services (in the case of prolonged infusions) unless a significant, separately identifiable
service is provided and documented.
D. General Policy Statements
1. In this Manual many policies are described utilizing the term "physician". Unless indicated
differently the usage of this term does not restrict the policies to physicians only but applies to all
practitioners, hospitals, providers, or suppliers eligible to bill the relevant HCPCS/CPT codes pursuant
to applicable portions of the Social Security Act (SSA) of 1965, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR),
and Medicare rules. In some sections of this Manual, the term "physician" would not include some of
these entities because specific rules do not apply to them. For example, Anesthesia Rules and Global
Surgery Rules do not apply to hospitals.
2. Multiple CPT codes are descriptive of services performed for bone and bone marrow evaluation.
When a biopsy is performed for evaluation of bone matrix structure, the appropriate code to bill is CPT
code 20220 for the biopsy and CPT code 88307 for the surgical pathology evaluation.
When a bone marrow aspiration is performed alone, the appropriate coding is CPT code 38220.
Appropriate coding for the interpretation is CPT code 85097 when the only service provided is the
interpretation of the bone marrow smear. When both are performed by the same provider, both CPT codes
may be reported. The pathological interpretations (CPT code 88300-88309) are not reported in addition to
CPT code 85097 unless separate specimens are processed.
When it is medically necessary to evaluate both bone structure and bone marrow, and both services can
be provided with one biopsy, only one code (CPT code 38221 or CPT code 20220) can be reported. If two
separate biopsies are necessary, then both can be reported using modifier -59 on one of the codes.
Pathological interpretation codes 88300-88309 may be separately reported for multiple separately
submitted specimens. If only one specimen is submitted, only one code can be reported regardless of
whether the report includes evaluation of both bone structure and bone marrow morphology or not.
3. The family of CPT codes 87040-87158 refers to microbial culture studies. The type of culture is
coded to the highest level of specificity regarding source, type, etc. When a culture is processed by a
commercial kit, report the code that describes the test to its highest level of specificity. A screening
culture and culture for definitive identification are not performed on the same day on the same specimen
and therefore are not reported together.
4. When cytopathology codes are reported, the appropriate CPT code to bill is that which describes,
to the highest level of specificity, what services were rendered. Accordingly, for a given specimen,
only one code from a group of related codes describing a group of services that could be performed on a
specimen with the same end result (e.g. 88104-88112, 88142-88143, 88150-88154, 88164-88167, etc.) is to
be reported. If multiple services (i.e., separate specimens from different anatomic sites) are reported,
modifier -59 should be used to indicate that different levels of service were provided for different
specimens from different anatomic sites. This should be reflected in the cytopathologic reports. A
cytopathology preparation from a fluid, washing, or brushing is to be reported using one code from the
range of CPT codes 88104-88112. It is inappropriate to additionally use CPT codes 88160-88162 because
the smears are included in the codes referable to fluids (or washings or brushings) and 88160-88162
references "any other source" which would exclude fluids, washings, or brushings.
5. The CPT codes 80500 and 80502 are used to indicate that a pathologist has reviewed and
interpreted, with a subsequent written report, a clinical pathology test. These codes additionally are
not to be used with any other pathology service that includes a physician interpretation (e.g. surgical
pathology). If an evaluation and management service (face-to-face contact with the patient) takes place
by the pathologist, then the appropriate E & M code is reported, rather than the clinical pathology
consultation codes, even if, as part of the evaluation and management service, review of the test result
is performed. Reporting of these services (CPT codes 80500 and 80502) requires the written order for
consultation by a treating physician.
6. The CPT codes 88321-88325 are to be used to review slides, tissues, or other material obtained
and prepared at a different location and referred to a pathologist for a second opinion. (These codes
should not be reported by pathologists reporting a second opinion on slides, tissue, or material also
examined and reported by another pathologist in the same provider group. Medicare generally does not pay
twice for an interpretation of a given technical service (e.g., EKGs, radiographs, etc.). CPT codes
88321-88325 are reported with one unit of service regardless of the number of specimens, paraffin blocks,
stained slides, etc.
When reporting CPT codes 88321-88325, providers should not report other pathology CPT codes such as
88312, 88313, 88342, 88187, 88188, 88189, etc., for interpretation of stains, slides or material
previously interpreted by another pathologist. CPT codes 88312, 88313 and 88342 may be reported with CPT
code 88323 if provider performs and interprets these stains de novo.
CPT codes 88321-88325 are not to be used for a face-to-face evaluation of a patient. In the event
that a physician provides an evaluation and management service to a patient and, in the course of this
service, specimens obtained elsewhere are reviewed as well, this is part of the evaluation and management
service and is not to be reported separately. Only the evaluation and management service would be
7. Multiple tests to identify the same analyte, marker, or infectious agent should not be reported
separately. For example, it would not be appropriate to report both direct probe and amplified probe
technique tests for the same infectious agent.
8. Medicare does not pay for duplicate testing. CPT codes 88342 (immunocytochemistry, each
antibody) and 88184, 88187, 88188, 88189 (flow cytometry) should not in general be reported for the same
or similar specimens. The diagnosis should be established using one of these methods. The provider may
report both CPT codes if both methods are required because the initial method is nondiagnostic or does
not explain all the light microscopic findings. The provider can report both methods utilizing modifier
-59 and document the need for both methods in the medical record.
If the abnormal cells in two or more specimens are morphologically similar and testing on one specimen
by one method (88342 or 88184, 88187, 88188, 88189) establishes the diagnosis, the same or other method
should not be reported on the same or similar specimen. Similar specimens would include, but are not
9. Quantitative or semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry using computer-assisted technology
(digital cellular imaging) should not be reported as CPT code 88342 with CPT code 88358. Prior to
January 1, 2004, it should have been reported as CPT code 88342. Beginning January 1, 2004 , it should
be reported as CPT code 88361. CPT code 88361 should not be used to report any service other than
quantitative or semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry using computer-assisted technology (digital
cellular imaging). Digital cellular imaging includes computer software analysis of stained microscopic
slides. Beginning January 1, 2005, quantitative or semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry performed by
manual techniques should be reported as CPT code 88360. Immunohistochemistry reported with qualitative
grading such as 1+ to 4+ should be reported as 88342.
- blood and bone marrow;
- bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy;
- two separate lymph nodes; or
- lymph node and other tissue with lymphoid infiltrate.
10. DNA ploidy and S-phase analysis of tumor by digital cellular imaging technique should not be
reported as CPT code 88313 with CPT code 88358. Prior to January 1, 2004 , it should have been reported
as CPT code 88313. Beginning January 1, 2004 , it should be reported as CPT code 88358. Prior to
January 1, 2004 , CPT code 88358 should have been utilized to report DNA ploidy and S-phase analysis of
tumor by non-digital cellular imaging techniques. CPT code 88358 should not be used to report any
service other than DNA ploidy and S-phase analysis. One unit of service for CPT code 88358 includes both
DNA ploidy and S-phase analysis.
11. CPT code 83721 (lipoprotein, direct measurement; direct measurement, LDL cholesterol) is used to
report direct measurement of the LDL cholesterol. It should not be used to report a calculated LDL
cholesterol. Direct measurement of LDL cholesterol in addition to total cholesterol (CPT code 82465) or
lipid panel (CPT code 80061) may be reasonable and necessary if the triglyceride level is too high
(greater than or equal to 400 mg/dl) to permit calculation of the LDL cholesterol. In such situations,
CPT code 83721 should be reported with modifier -59.
12. Prior to January 1, 2005 ,
qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative (tissue) in situ
hybridization should have been reported as CPT code 88365 when performed by a physician (M.D./D.O.).
Beginning January 1, 2005, quantitative or semi-quantitative in situ
hybridization (tissue or cellular) performed by computer-assisted technology should be reported as CPT
code 88367 when performed by a physician (M.D./D.O.). Beginning January 1, 2005 , quantitative or
semi-quantitative in situ hybridization (tissue or cellular) performed by
manual methods should be reported as CPT code 88368 when performed by a physician (M.D./D.O.). Do not
report CPT code 88365 with CPT codes 88367 or 88368 for the same probe. Only one unit of service may be
reported for CPT code 88365, 88367 or 88368 for each reportable probe. When in
situ hybridization is performed on tissue or cytology specimens by a non-physician (provider other
than M.D./D.O.), it should be reported using appropriate CPT codes in the range 88271-88275. For each
reportable probe, a provider should not report CPT codes both from the range 88365-88368 and the range
88271-88275. In situ hybridization reported as CPT codes 88365-88368
includes both physician (M.D./D.O.) and non-physician (non-M.D./D.O.) services to obtain a reportable
probe result. The physician (M.D./D.O.) work component of 88365-88368 requires that a physician
(M.D./D.O.) rather than laboratory scientist or technician read, quantitate (88367,88368), and interpret
the tissues/cells stained with the probe(s). If this work is performed by a laboratory scientist or
technician, CPT codes 88271-88275 should be reported.
13. Beginning January 1, 2005 ,
flow cytometry interpretation should be reported using CPT codes 88187-88189. Only one code should be
reported for all flow cytometry performed on a specimen. Since Medicare does not pay for duplicate
testing, do not report flow cytometry on multiple specimens on the same date of service unless the
morphology or other clinical factors suggest differing results on the different specimens. There is no
CPT code for interpretation of one marker. The provider should not bill for interpretation of a single
marker using another CPT code. Quantitative cell counts performed by flow cytometry (CPT codes 86064,
86359-86361, 86379, and 86587) should not be reported with the flow cytometry interpretation CPT codes
88187-88189 since there is no interpretative service for these quantitative cell counts.
14. Analyte specific infectious agent molecular diagnostic testing is reported with CPT codes
87470-87801, 87901-87904. These CPT codes include all the molecular diagnostic processes, and CPT codes
83890-83912 should not be additionally reported with these CPT codes. If the provider performs analyte
specific infectious agent molecular diagnostic testing (87470-87801, 87901-87904) on the same date of
service as non-infectious agent molecular diagnostic testing, the molecular diagnostic testing CPT codes
83890-83912 may be reported separately with an NCCI-associated modifier.
15. CPT code 83912 describes a medically reasonable and necessary "interpretation and report"
associated with molecular diagnostic testing described with CPT codes 83890-83906. CPT code 83912 should
not be reported as an "interpretation and report" with CPT codes 87470-87801,87901-87904 or 88271-88275.
16. Free thyroxine (CPT code 84439) is generally considered to be a better measure of the
hypothyroid or hyperthyroid state than total thyroxine (CPT code 84436). If free thyroxine is measured,
it is not considered appropriate to measure total thyroxine with or without thyroid hormone binding ratio
(CPT code 84479). NCCI does not permit payment of CPT codes 84436 or 84479 with CPT code 84439.