Learn correct Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNLB) CPT Codes for coding and billing of breast Cancer/melanoma patients.

Coding Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNLB) is a surgical procedure in Melanoma and Breast Cancer Screening to determine if cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into the lymphatic system. Sentinel Node Biopsy in Breast Cancer Evaluation reveals cancer spread, then the patient needs additional lymph nodes removed.

The Sentinel Nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Lumpectomy with Sentinel Node Biopsy for Melanoma involves injecting a tracer material that helps the surgeon locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and analyzed in a laboratory. If the sentinel nodes are free of cancer, then cancer isn't likely to have spread and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

Sentinal node biopsy is not the same as Lymphadenectomy. Thus and confusing the two could have direct effects on the accuracy of your Medical Billing Claims.

Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNLB) CPT Codes for Breast Cancer/Melanoma

Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNLB) CPT Coding

Please follow given points to be sure you get all your Sentinel Node Biopsy procedures billing claims reimbursed:

Sentinel Node Biopsy is Billable when Results Lead to Subsequent Excisions

When the surgeon performs a sentinel lymph node biopsy prior to an unplanned partial mastectomy (either with or without lymphadenectomy) and the subsequent excisions are a result of biopsy findings, you may report the sentinel node biopsy separately.

CPT Code 38525 and 38745 for Sentinel Node Biopsy (SNLB)

Sentinal Lymph Node Biopsy is separately reported when performed prior to a localized excision of breast or a mastectomy without Lymphadenectomy. Therefore you can report both sentinel lymph node biopsy and lymphadenectomy during the same session as long as:
  1. The lymphadenectomy is unplanned at the time of the biopsy.
  2. The decision to perform lymphadenectomy (at the same or a later session) is based on the results of the biopsy.
Example: The surgeon takes a biopsy of the sentinel axillary node (38525, Biopsy or excision of lymph node[s]; open, deep axillary node[s]). The pathology report indicates that the malignancy has spread, so the surgeon follows up with a lymphadenectomy (for example, 38745, Axillary lymphadenectomy; complete) to remove the affected tissue.
In above case, because the biopsy led to the decision to perform the mastectomy, you may report both 38525 and 38745.

Modifier 59 with CPT Code 38500-38530

Many payers will require that you append modifier 59 (Distinct procedural service) to the appropriate biopsy code (38500-38530) to further differentiate the procedure from the follow-up lymphadenectomy. In addition, your documentation should make clear that the biopsy results provided the justification for and led to the decision to perform the subsequent excisions.

CPT Codes for Sentinal Node Biopsy with Lymphadenectomy

You should not separately report Sentinal Node Biopsy (38500-38530) and a planned lymphadenectomy (38700-38780) in the same region during the same operative session. Instead, you should include the sentinel node biopsy in the more extensive, same-location lymphadenectomy. Medicare says:
Sentinal lymph node biopsy for malignant melanoma is eligible for reimbursement unless a regional lymphadenectomy is planned, regardless of the findings of the [biopsy].
If the surgeon prospectively plans to perform lymphadenectomy, you should not separately report a sentinel node biopsy. In this case, the complete lymphadenectomy automatically includes removal of any lymph nodes that would qualify as sentinel nodes.

You should consider sentinel node biopsy (38500-38530) to be a more "targeted" and less invasive procedure than lymphadenectomy (38700-38780).

The sentinel node is the first lymph node to receive drainage from a cancer-containing area of the breast (or other sites). If the sentinel lymph node is negative for metastases, the surgeon need not perform a complete lymphadenectomy (which removes a much greater volume of tissue), thereby avoiding the morbidity and complications associated with that procedure.

Keep in mind, however, that the above sequence of events would be rare. The purpose of a sentinel node biopsy is to avoid a lymphadenectomy, if possible. Therefore, surgeons generally perform lymphadenectomy only if the results of the sentinel node biopsy show malignancy.

CPT Codes for Excisions, not Incisions, Count for Sentinal Node

When the surgeon performs more than one sentinel lymph node biopsy, you should realize that the number of incisions, not the number of biopsies, determines the number of codes and/or units.

If the surgeon performs two biopsies through the same incision, you may report only a single code. If the surgeon takes three biopsies from two different incisions, you may report two codes, etc.

When reporting more than one biopsy code, append modifier 59 (Distinct procedural service) to the second and subsequent codes.
Example: Using one incision, the surgeon biopsies a superficial node and a deep axillary node. In this case, because the surgeon accesses the node through a single incision, you may report only the more extensive (higher-paying) code -- in this case, 38525.
If the surgeon performs the same procedures through different incisions, you may report 38525 and 38500, attaching modifier 59 to the lesser (lower-valued) procedure here, 38500 to indicate a separate anatomic area.

Watch for Mastectomy/Lymphadenectomy Unbundle

If the surgeon performs a mastectomy and lymphadenectomy during the same session, you should report 19302 (Mastectomy, partial [e.g., lumpectomy, tylectomy, quadrantectomy, segmentectomy]; with axillary lymphadenectomy) for the combined procedure rather than reporting 19301 and 38745 separately.

Often, with partial mastectomy, the surgeon will perform a limited axillary lymphadenectomy to remove some lymph nodes. The surgeon may also remove the nodes in the axilla through a separate incision at the same time.

Look out for the Staged Exception

Following some partial mastectomies (19301), the surgeon may return during the postoperative period to see if there has been any lymph node involvement and, if so, may choose to remove the nodes at that time.

In such a case, you would report the lymphadenectomy as a staged procedure using 38745 with modifier 58 (Staged or related procedure or service by the same physician during the postoperative period) appended.

Sentinel Node Biopsy CPT Codes

Sometimes when performing a partial mastectomy it is necessary to remove axillary lymph nodes or biopsy the sentinel node. A sentinel node is the first node in a lymphatic chain to receive fluid from the primary tumor site which contains the metastasizing cancer cells.

CPT code 19301 is reported for a partial mastectomy or lumpectomy when the tumor is removed and specific attention is paid to the surgical margins. The lymph node excision code is determined by the type of procedure performed.

There are 3 levels of axillary lymph nodes Levels I-III. CPT code 38500 is reported for open excision or biopsy of superficial lymph nodes - these nodes are usually palpable under the skin. Levels II and III are deep and reported with CPT code 38525 (open, deep axillary nodes). The depth of dissection should be documented in the op note for coding accuracy.

Injection of dye to confirm a sentinel node is separately reported with CPT code 38792 (injection procedure for identification of sentinel node).

CPT code 19302 is only reported when "all identifiable axillary lymph nodes are removed" – A separate incision may be made but that is not what determines coding, reporting is based on the extent of axillary lymph node dissection.

Sentinel Node Biopsy ICD 9 Code

While coding Sentinel Node Biopsy/Surgery , the ICD 9 diagnosis code(s) must be represent the condition of the patient.

When the ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes 172.0-172.9 are used to identify malignant melanoma of the skin. The patient records must document that the tumor is Clinical Stage I.

When ICD-9-CM codes 174.0-174.9, 175.0, or 175.9 are used to identify breast cancer, the patient records must document that the tumor is Clinical Stage I or II.

Post a Comment

  1. patient comes to the OR..for Total mastectomy(19303, 38525, 38900) sentinel node frozen section is positive and 38740/38745 is done. should coding be 19307, 38525-59, 38900 vs 19303, 38525, 38900, 38740/38745?

    1. Rhonda: Did you ever get an answer to this question? I'd like to know the answer as well. Thank you.


Webmaster reserves the rights to edit/remove comments that is found irrelevant, offensive, contain profanity, serves as spam or attempts to harbor irrelevant links. Please read our Comments Policy for details.