March 2, 2017
Are we able to report CPT code 20660 for the application of cranial tongs during an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure? The surgeon documented the tongs were applied and removed during the operative case.
Thank you for your inquiry. CPT code 20660 is the correct code for the application of cranial tongs. The full definition is “Application of cranial tongs, caliper, or stereotactic frame, including removal (separate procedure)”. First, in reviewing the code, please note that the code has a ‘separate procedure’ designation. This means that the work associated with this CPT code is an integral part of a more extensive procedure. This means that CPT code 20660 is not reportable with CPT code 22551 “Arthrodesis, anterior interbody, including disc space preparation, discectomy, osteophytectomy and decompression of spinal cord and/or nerve roots; cervical below C2” (aka ACDF) which is reported for the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion code. The use of a tongs or head holders, etc. for intra-operative positioning of the head is inclusive to any spinal procedure.
Additionally, the lay description published in Encoder Pro includes the work of applying skull traction tongs; this inclusion in the description of the procedure and the separate procedure designation preclude the surgeon from reporting CPT code 20660 in addition to the ACDF procedure code.
Typically the codes associated with halo application are reportable when the halo is applied as a stand-alone procedure or the halo is applied for longer term stabilization meaning the patient leaves the operative suite with the halo applied.
*This response is based on the best information available as of 03/02/17.