A Potpourri of Things to Do Correctly

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Biopsies come in 2 varieties: general and site specific. All dermatologists are familiar with the basic skin biopsy codes 11110 and 11101 (biopsy of skin, subcutaneous tissue and/or mucous membrane [including simple closure], unless otherwise listed). Many are not aware of site-specific biopsy codes that often are more appropriate and should be used when their localization is more precise than the general skin biopsy.

Biopsies of the nail unit (eg, plate, bed, matrix, hyponychium, proximal and lateral nail folds) are reported using CPT code 11755. A simple nail clipping for culture or periodic acid–Schiff stain is not a nail biopsy and should not be separately reported from the evaluation and management component of the visit.

The lip biopsy code (40490) is used appropriately when the vermilion is sampled, not the skin around it. If the skin and vermilion are contiguously sampled, only report 40490. Specific codes exist for the vestibule of the mouth (40808), the anterior two-thirds (41100) and posterior one-third (41105) of the tongue, the floor (41108) and roof (42100) of the mouth, and the salivary glands by needle (42400) or by incision (42405).

The penis can be biopsied on the surface (54100) or deep structures can be sampled (54105), though the latter is uncommon in dermatology practices. The vulva can be sampled with codes comparable to general biopsy, with 54605 for the first biopsy and 54606 used for each additional one.

An incisional biopsy of the eyelid margin is reported with 67810, while conjunctival biopsy is reported with 68100; 68510 describes a lacrimal gland biopsy. The ear, not to be left out, has its own biopsy codes, with 69100 for the external ear and 69105 for the auditory canal.

Clipping of hair or tape stripping of skin (similar to nail clipping described above) are not biopsies and are not separately reportable, as the work involved is considered incident to the cognitive visit taking place.

Final Thoughts

These points should all be fairly straightforward—yes, the skin biopsy includes mucosa, but if a mucosal site such as the mouth has a more specific code, then that code is correct—and the simplest test for the clinician is to ask yourself, “If I were reviewing the claim, what would I expect to see?” As always, document what you do, do what you document, and report that which is medically necessary.


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