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  Your CPT Questions

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Reprinted from December 2000 CAP TODAY

Q: My practice is interested in using code 99000, Handling and/or conveyance of specimen for transfer from the physician’s office to a laboratory. What is the proper application of this code?

A: Code 99000 can be used when the physician incurs costs for handling or transporting a specimen to the laboratory, or both. The American Medical Association has clarified that 99000 can be used to capture the work involved in preparing a specimen for transportation to the laboratory, or in transporting the specimen. Preparation for transportation is reported regardless of whether the specimen is delivered by the physician office or a courier (CPT Assistant, October 1999). Preparation may include specimen centrifugation, separating serum, labeling tubes and envelopes, packing the specimen before transport, completing laboratory forms, and supplying necessary insurance information and other documents. Medicare and most private insurers, however, do not recognize this code.

Q: Sometimes I find it necessary to perform quantitative iron on a paraffin tissue block, such as a liver biopsy, by colorimetric analysis. I was looking into code 83540, which is in the chemistry section. Should I use it for a histology specimen?

A: Code 83540, Iron, is the appropriate code. The preamble to the chemistry section in CPT 2000 says: “The material for examination may be from any source. When an analyte is measured in multiple specimens from different sources, or in specimens that are obtained at different times, the analyte is reported separately for each source and for each specimen. The examination is quantitative unless otherwise specified.”

In contrast, when pathologists perform an iron stain on a liver biopsy or other tissues with physician evaluation they should submit, code 88313, Special stains; Group II, all other (eg, iron, trichrome) except immunocytochemistry and immunoperoxidase stains, each. List code 88313 separately with the code for surgical pathology examination.


Frequently asked questions about CPT are published bimonthly in “Capitol Scan.” This addition to CAP TODAY is a product of the CAP Economic Affairs Committee.

The codes and descriptions listed here are from Current Procedural Terminology, a copyrighted publication of the American Medical Association. To purchase CPT books, call the AMA at (800) 621-8335.