Modifier 51, multiple procedures, is most often used to report surgical procedures that are performed during the same session or through the same incision. Modifier 59, distinct procedural service, is used to identify distinct and independent (ie, unrelated) procedures or non–evaluation and management (E/M) services that are not normally performed at the same session. Modifier 59 is the “modifier of last resort” and should never be used when a more descriptive or appropriate modifier is available. Therefore, when modifier 51 is more appropriate, it should always be reported instead of modifier 59.

Tip: The December 2008 issue ofAAP Pediatric Coding NewsletterTM(Vol 4, No. 3) focused on the fundamentals of modifiers and the use of modifiers 25, 57, and 59. As a subscriber, you have online access to the monthly issues andAAP Pediatric Coding NewsletterElectronic Pages. Use your American Academy of Pediatrics...

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