Coding Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

If you’re considering a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, it’s important to know what’s involved. While there are many factors to consider, one of the most important is whether or not you’re a candidate for autologous tissue reconstruction.

Autologous tissue reconstruction is when you use your own body to create a new breast, using some of your own tissue and fat. This is an excellent choice for women who want to avoid additional surgery and the risks associated with implants or other artificial materials.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may have heard that autologous tissue reconstruction can be done at the time of your mastectomy. However, there are some things you should know before making this decision:

This article also examines CPT code for breast reconstruction with tissue expanders and CPT code for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

Coding Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

If you’re a breast cancer survivor, you know that the road to recovery is long and hard. From surgery to chemotherapy and hormone therapy, it’s no surprise that many women will experience loss of hair, weight gain and other physical symptoms of their condition.

But the emotional toll can be just as devastating—especially when it comes to body image. Many women feel self-conscious about their scars or missing breasts after surgery, and they may feel less confident in their appearance overall. That’s why we’re going to talk about how coding breast reconstruction can help you feel better about your body after cancer treatment.

Breast reconstruction is one of the most important parts of breast cancer treatment because it helps women feel whole again by restoring their pre-cancerous bodies.

Coding Breast Reconstruction

Breast surgery can be a challenge to code. Some payers, for example, won’t cover reconstructive procedures on prior breast augmentations, while others will cover the reconstructive procedures, but not the implant replacement. Here’s the latest on recent coding clarifications, as well as important details regarding implants and payer considerations.

Medicare Reimbursement for Breast Surgery

As the field of breast reconstruction and revisional surgery has evolved, so, too, have breast surgery CPT codes in both their purpose and intent.

ProcedureCPT CodeASCOPPSAPCMultiple Discount
Autologous fat transfer19366$1,379.81$2,458.990029Yes
Tissue expanders19357$3,565,14$4,562.000648Yes
Soft tissue reinforcement15777$623.76$1,111.610136Yes
Replacement of tissue expander with permanent prosthesis11970$1,928.93$3,437.590051Yes
Revision of reconstructed breast19380$1,815.79$3,235.960030Yes
Nipple/areola reconstruction19350$1,045.25$1,862.770028Yes

Autologous fat transfer
Although most breast reconstructions are performed with implants, some patients are opting for autologous fat transfer (AFT) procedures. In these procedures, the patient wears an external tissue expander such as the Brava device for about a month before the procedure. During the procedure, liposuction is performed to harvest fat for the breast reconstruction. The fat is centrifuged and placed into syringes, which are used to transfer the fat into the breast.

When AFT is the sole method of reconstructing the breast, report code 19366 [Breast reconstruction with other technique], according to the December 2011 CPT Assistant. The liposuction procedure to harvest the fat is not separately reported. Under both the ASC and OPPS payment systems, a multiple procedure reduction applies, which means the procedure on the contralateral breast is reduced for bilateral procedures performed on the same date of service.

There are a few things to consider with this procedure. Not long ago, placing fat grafts into the breast was not considered safe. Fat necrosis was common, and that complication could interfere with subsequent mammograms. With current techniques, including low suction pressure for the harvest of fat, centrifuging of the fat to remove fluids and injection of smaller fat particles into the breast, survival of the fat cells has improved significantly. However, this careful attention to the harvesting and processing of the fat increases operating times. Surgeries can average more than 1 hour and some can take up to 6 hours, increasing both the risk to the patient and the expense to the facility. Pay careful attention to patient selection criteria, and closely analyze the operating expenses for this procedure before adding it to your facility’s offerings.

How to Code Replacement Breast Implants

Medicare Reimbursement for Replacement Breast Implants


— Denis Rodriguez, CPC-H

Internal tissue expanders
To prepare a mastectomy patient for subsequent breast implants, it’s common to place internal tissue expanders. Whether it’s performed immediately after mastectomy or it’s delayed until chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments are completed, use 19357 [Breast reconstruction, immediate or delayed, with tissue expander, including subsequent expansion] to report this procedure. When performed in an ASC, the Medicare national payment rate for 19357 is $3,565.14. Under the Medicare ASC payment system, this code has a payment indicator of J8, meaning it’s a device-intensive procedure and payment for the expanders is included in the procedure fee.

When performed in a hospital outpatient department, OPPS assigns this code to APC 0648, which is paid at $4,562.00. Report C1789 for each implant in the HOPD setting; but because OPPS assigns an N status indicator to this code, its payment is considered packaged into the fee for the main procedure. Whether done at an ASC or HOPD, the multiple procedure discount applies. Report the expanders to C1789 [Prosthesis, breast (implantable)] or L8600 [Implantable breast prosthesis, silicone or equal] because most payers that don’t package or bundle them into the surgical fee, as the expander is, in essence, an adjustable saline breast prosthesis.

Soft Tissue Reinforcement

Use 15777 to report any soft tissue reinforcement of the breast with biologic implants such as Alloderm or Dermagraft. You must report this add-on code along with the code for the main procedure (19357, for example). Some payers may deny payment for the soft tissue reinforcement code, but may pay for the biologic implant tissue, says Raymond Janevicius, MD, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’s representative to the American Medical Association’s CPT Advisory committee.

Medicare Reimbursement for Biologic Breast Implants

Biologic ImplantHCPCS codeASCOPPSAPC

* Per square centimeter

Revision of the reconstructed breast
Although more a staged procedure than a revisional procedure, we’re including code 11970 [Replacement of tissue expander with permanent prosthesis] because it’s often accompanied by revisional procedures that can make coding these procedures complicated.

After a tissue expander has adequately created a space for implant placement, the surgeon will bring the patient in for removal of the expander and placement of the permanent implant. Code 11970 includes minor adjustments to the capsule during the expander removal and implant placement. However, significant adjustments such as lowering or raising the inframammary crease, significant partial or total capsulectomy, or multiple capsulotomies to achieve symmetry or accommodate the prosthesis aren’t included in code 11970, according to the January 2013 CPT Assistant. In such a case, some payers require the procedure to be reported to 19342, as the AMA recommends, while others may prefer the reporting of 11970 along with the capsulotomy or capsulectomy codes, says Dr. Janevicius. He adds that the extent of the capsulotomies and capsulectomies should be well described in the note. Document the area being adjusted along with the intent and/or effect of the procedure; a statement such as “capsulotomy was performed” does not suffice. Because code 19342 includes considerable capsular adjustments in preparation for delayed implants, you wouldn’t code capsulotomies in addition.

When coding for capsulotomies, capsulectomies and implant removal, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Code 19371 [Periprosthetic capsulectomy, breast] includes the removal of a breast implant and any extravasated implant material that remains within the capsule, so don’t report 19328 [Removal of intact mammary implant] in addition. When you perform capsulectomy with removal of implant material extending beyond that capsule, you may report 19330 along with 19371, per the November 2001 CPT Assistant. (Note: Some payers allow coding of 19371 along with 11970).
  • When capsulotomy is used as the approach for the implant, don’t separately report code 19370 [Open periprosthetic capsulotomy, breast]. This code is intended to report adjustments made to the breast capsule.
  • The implant removal code (19328) is not separately reportable with implant replacement (19340), according to the “CPT Corner” article in the March 2013 Plastic Surgery News.
  • The excision of a small part of the capsule for minor adjustment is considered included in the replacement procedure, according to the April/May 2013 Plastic Surgery News.

Code 19380 [Revision of reconstructed breast] is a non-specific code intended to capture revisional procedures other than capsulotomies and capsulectomies. As the code descriptor states, in order to report 19380, the procedures must be performed on a breast that has already been reconstructed. According to the March 2013 Plastic Surgery News, this code may include the following procedures:

  • liposuction for asymmetry;
  • excision of excess tissue (excision and repair of dog ear is coded to the appropriate benign skin lesion excision and repair codes);
  • rearrangement of tissue for asymmetry;
  • adjustments to the inframammary crease; and
  • repositioning of a previously placed flap (report the original flap code with a -52 modifier when the entire flap or most of the flap must be re-elevated).

19328 CPT Code

Medicare Reimbursement for Capsulotomies, Capsulectomies and Implant Removal


For reconstruction of the nipples, which is not included in implant placement, report code 19350 [Nipple/areola reconstruction]. Any flaps/tissue rearrangement, grafts, tattooing or other procedure inherent to nipple/areola reconstruction is included in this code and not separately reported, according to the January 2013 CPT Assistant.

Communicate with the payer
Payers differ on the types of procedures they cover and how they want certain procedures reported. Be sure to get your breast procedures pre-authorized in writing. Your request for pre-authorization should clearly and accurately describe the procedures you intend to perform. Coding accurately for breast reconstruction and revision can be a challenge, but with a clear understanding of coding guidelines, detailed and thorough documentation of the procedures and a pre-authorization process in place, your facility can get reimbursed its fair due for these procedures.

CPT Code For Breast Reconstruction With Tissue Expanders

Tissue expanders are used when there is insufficient skin left on the chest following a mastectomy to provide adequate coverage of a breast implant. Tissue expanders are inflatable breast implants that have silicone outer shells and either an internal valve or external port to allow for saline fluid injections that stretch the skin over time. Once the skin has been stretched sufficiently, the tissue expander is removed and replaced with a permanent breast implant. This type of breast reconstruction is known as staged reconstruction.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

The initial insertion of a tissue expander is assigned to CPT code 19357.

Cpt Code For Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

Whether it’s performed immediately after mastectomy or it’s delayed until chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments are completed, use 19357 [Breast reconstruction, immediate or delayed, with tissue expander, including subsequent expansion] to report this procedure. 

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