Part 2: Spinal Fusion Coding — Initial Fusion or Refusion
Kim Carrier RHIT, CDIP, CCS, CCS-P
Director of Coding Quality Assurance
AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer
In Part 1 we discussed the diagnoses typically responsible for a patient requiring a spinal fusion. In Part 2, we are going to look at the differences between initial fusion and a refusion. In ICD-9, there were specific codes to show if the fusion was an initial fusion, or if it was a refusion. In ICD-10-PCS, initial fusions and refusion procedures are coded to the same root operation “fusion.” The definition in ICD-10-PCS for fusion is “joining together portions of an articular body part rendering the articular body part immobile.” For spinal fusions, this means that two or more vertebrae are joined together and this prevents movement between the fused vertebrae.
Although, in ICD-10-PCS, the fusion and refusion are both coded to the same root operation of fusion, coders still need to know which the surgeon is performing. This will also alert the coder to look for additional procedures that may need to be captured in the operative note documentation (such as a removal of previous device).
Initial Spinal Fusion:
This is the first time a fusion is being performed on a specific vertebrae. The patient could have had a past fusion at a different level, but it is determined based on the level that is being fused and not the past history. In the same operative note, there may be documentation of an initial level of fusion as well as another level that may have required a refusion. Here are the most common reason an initial spinal fusion may be needed:
- Degenerative disc disease/disc degeneration
- Spinal stenosis/neurogenic claudication
- Herniated disc/slipped disc/ruptured disc
- Radiculopathy/pinched spinal nerve
Refusion of Spine:
This is when a patient has already had a spinal fusion at one level and now requires fusion again on that specific vertebrae. As above, the operative note should be read carefully to be sure that there aren’t additional “initial” fusions being performed at the same time. This may change the number of joints reported or other ICD-10-PCS code characters. Here are the most common reasons a refusion of the spine may be needed:
- Pseudoarthrosis/non-union/failed fusion
- Injury resulting in damage to the initial fusion
- Complications of the initial area fused
Spinal fusions are performed to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine that eliminates motion between them. The fusion/refusion will mimic the normal healing process of a broken bone by the use of bone or bonelike material between two spinal vertebrae. Oftentimes, it takes months for the spinal vertebrae to heal and fuse together. A successful fusion or refusion would be defined as; when the vertebrae that were fused together heal into a single solid bone. There is no time limit on when a fusion may be considered a failed fusion/non-union.
Click here to read Part 1: Spinal Fusion Coding — Diagnoses Responsible.
Be on the lookout for Part 3, that will discuss how to determine the level(s) of a fusion as well as number of vertebrae being fused together.
ICD-10-PCS Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting FY 2019
The information contained in this coding advice is valid at the time of posting. Viewers are encouraged to research subsequent official guidance in the areas associated with the topic as they can change rapidly.
Severe sepsis occurs when sepsis progresses and signs of organ dysfunction/failure develop. One site stated that approximately 30% of patients with severe sepsis do not survive. Patients may develop one organ dysfunction/failure, multi-system organ failure and/or septic shock.
In Part 2 of our Sepsis Series, we are going to focus on sequencing of sepsis when the diagnosis is clearly documented. Later in the series we will look at what to do when the diagnosis is not clearly documented.
In this series, we will learn what sepsis is or causes of sepsis, how to sequence the diagnosis in ICD-10-CM, what are the clinical indicators for sepsis, is a query necessary before reporting the diagnosis of sepsis, and how to prevent denials on sepsis records.
In the previous three parts of this four part series, we discussed the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis code changes, ICD-10-PCS procedure code changes and FY2020 IPPS changes. In this last Part 4 of the series, we will review the NTAP procedure codes and reimbursement add-on payments for FY2020.
In the previous two parts of this four part series, we discussed the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis code changes and ICD-10-PC procedure code changes. In this session we will review the major IPPS changes for FY2020. On August 2, 2019, CMS published the Final Rule for IPPS (CMS-1716) FY2020 IPPS Final Rule.
In Part 1 of this 4 part series we discussed some of the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis changes. In Part 2 we present the significant ICD-10-PCS procedure code changes. There are 72,184 total ICD-10-CM codes for FY2020.
This is Part 1 of a 4 part series on the FY2020 changes to ICD-10 and the IPPS. In this part, we discuss some of the new ICD-10-CM diagnosis changes. There are 72,184 total ICD-10-CM codes for FY2020.
We have finished with the step-by-step coding tidbits on coding of spinal fusions. If you were not able to catch Parts 1-13 of this series focused on spinal fusions, please visit hiacode.com/topics/series/spinal-fusion-coding/.
In Part 12, we focused on intra-operative peripheral neuro monitoring used during spinal fusion surgery. In Part 13, we are going to focus on harvesting of autograft and is it coded. Remember in Part 6, we learned that autograft is bone from the patient.
In Part 11, we focused on identifying the computer assisted navigation used during spinal fusion surgery. In Part 12, we are going to focus on intra-operative peripheral neuro monitoring.
In Part 10, we focused on identifying whether or not hardware from a previous spinal fusion is coded. In Part 11, we are going to discuss computer assisted navigation.
In Part 9, we focused on identifying if decompression was also performed and if so, on which body part. In Part 10, we are going to focus on identifying if hardware was removed from a previous fusion site.
In Part 8, we focused on identifying if a discectomy was performed, and if so, if it was a partial or a total discectomy. In Part 9, we are going to focus on identifying if a decompression was performed, and if so, was it of the spinal cord, spinal nerves or both?
In Part 7, we focused on identifying any instrumentation that may be used during a spinal fusion. In Part 8, we are going to focus on identifying if a discectomy is performed and if this is an excision or a resection of the disc.
In Part 6, we focused on identifying the type of bone graft product used for the spinal fusion. In Part 7, we are going to focus on identifying any instrumentation or device used.
In Part 5, we focused on identifying the approach being used for the spinal fusion. In Part 6, we are going to focus on identifying the type of bone graft used for the spinal fusion.
In Part 4, we focused on determining the spinal column being fused. In Part 5, we are going to focus on identifying what approach is being used to complete the spinal fusion (anterior, posterior or both).
This past year, HIA implemented “Buddy Up,” a program designed to help the new hire have a smooth transition into their new HIA roles with the assistance of a “buddy.” What is a Buddy? The Buddy is simply a peer who can guide the new hire in order to make them feel more comfortable. We are very proud of this program and have many success stories that we would like to share. Take a look at the wonderful feedback we have received below.
In Part 3, we focused on determining the level of the fusion(s) and how to determine the number of vertebrae fused. In Part 4, we are going to focus on identifying which column is being fused (anterior, posterior or both).
Part 3: Spinal Fusion Coding — Determine the Level(s) or Region of Fusion and Number of Vertebrae Fused
In Part 1, we learned the diagnoses associated with the need for spinal fusions, and in Part 2 the need to identify if the fusion is an initial or refusion of the vertebrae. In Part 3, we are going to focus on determining the level(s) of fusion, as well as the number of vertebrae fused.
This is Part 1 of a 14 part series focusing on education for spinal fusions. Spinal fusion coding is a tough job for coders. There are so many diseases/disorders that result in the need for spinal fusion, and even more choices in reporting the ICD-10-PCS codes.
The official definition from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) states that a Medicare overpayment is a payment that exceeds amounts properly payable under Medicare statutes and regulations. When Medicare identifies an overpayment, the amount becomes a debt you owe the Federal government.
The question asked in a physician query may be the most important element of the document. Query questions need to be as simple and concise as possible. The physician should have no doubt what the coder is asking.
We interviewed our most productive coders, reviewers and members of our education team, asking them what steps they take to find a rhythm that works for them. This week, we talked with Beth Martilik, MA, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, Assistant Director of Education, about the steps she takes to find her routine.
With the implementation of ICD-10-CM came more codes for reporting many different conditions and diseases, and atrial fibrillation is one of those. For many years there was only one code available for reporting this condition, even when the physician further specified the type of atrial fibrillation that the patient had. In ICD-10-CM, there are four codes to report atrial fibrillation.
We have a case where the physician removes mucoid casts found during bronchoscopy. We have also seen mucus plugs removed during bronchoscopy. The MD performs bronchial washings then removes a large amount of tenacious and thick mucoid casts via bronchoscopy. Is this coded drainage, extirpation or excision? What body part is used?
The key to making the query process more efficient is to look for words or documentation while reviewing the record that may signal a potential query opportunity and to note the finding at that time. By the time a coder reaches the end of a record, documentation may have been found to eliminate the need for the query.
Question: This patient is noted to have “Lymphangitic carcinomatosis of lungs with mediastinal lymph nodes.” How would I code the diagnosis? Would I code metastatic cancer to the lung (C78.01) or metastatic cancer to the lymph nodes (C77.1)?
Coding these can be challenging for coders when trying to decipher the operative notes and terms that are used. The physicians are still using the terms excision and resection interchangeably and review of the entire operative note is required to select the appropriate root operation. Remember, it is the coder’s responsibility to determine the root operation based on the details from the physician in the operative report.