Billing for Unattended Ultrasound

Published: 2010-07-17 15:13:34
Author: Samuel A. Collins | Dynamic Chiropractic | May 6, 2010

Q: I have a new ultrasound machine that applies the ultrasound without anyone present but the patient. It works by a "pulse" that allows me to set the sound head with a mechanical arm and leave the patient unattended during the time of the service. Can I bill the regular ultrasound code of 97035 or do I need to bill with an alternate CPT code?

A: This type of ultrasound has become available and more popular with technology that allows an ultrasound head to remain in a single position and deliver its treatment without the harm of burning or over-exposure. However,  billing for this type of ultrasound service does not comply with the coding requirement of the 97035 CPT code.

CPT code 97035, ultrasound, is defined as a constant-attendance modality wherein there is direct, one-on-one contact by the provider during the delivery of the service. Because of its constant-attendance requirement, 97035 is billable in units based on each 15 minutes of application. (For information on billing units and the specific time requirements, please see "Billing Units of Service: The Element of Time" in the April 23, 2007 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic).

Because of the constant-attendance requirement, it would not be appropriate to bill this type of ultrasound service under the 97035 code since the code requires that the provider remain in contact with the patient throughout the entire procedure. This constant contact is, of course, a requirement for standard ultrasound due the sound head being hand-held and needing continuous motion during application of the therapy.

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