Assist at surgery modifiers

When surgeons perform procedures, they sometimes need an additional set of skilled hands to assist. Listed below are four types of modifier assistant surgeon classifications.

Modifier 80 Assistant Surgeon – During certain operations, one physician assists another physician in performing a procedure. The physician who assists the operating surgeon would report the same surgical procedure as the operating surgeon. The assistant surgeon generally is present during the entire operation or a substantial portion of the operation.

Modifier 81 Minimum Assistant Surgeon – Sometimes, the operating physician plans to perform a surgical procedure alone. When a minor problem occurs during the operation that requires the service of an assistant surgeon for short period of time, this is considered a minimum assistant surgeon.

Modifier 82 Assistant Surgeon (when a qualified resident surgeon is not available) – In teaching hospitals, the physician who generally acts as the assistant surgeon is a qualified resident surgeon. There may be times when a qualified resident surgeon is not available to assist the operating surgeon, so a physician assists the operating surgeon.

Modifier AS – Non-physician assisting at surgery. Medicare has established the -AS modifier to report Physician Assistant (PA), Nurse Practitioner (NP), or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) services for assistant-at-surgery, non-team member. For Medicare reporting purposes, to indicate PA, NP, or CNS services for assistant-at-surgery, HCPCS modifier -AS would be appended to the procedure number instead of one of the CPT modifiers.

Additional documentation is required when applying these modifiers. The surgeon is required to specify in the body of the operative report what the assistant actually did. It is not sufficient evidence of participation to list the assistant’s name in the heading of the operative report.