Top 20 anesthesia procedures and services

The practice of anesthesia facilitates many routine procedures in modern medicine, enabling doctors to perform surgeries and other procedures without causing severe or intolerable pain to the patient.

Anesthesia refers to any medically induced state of controlled, temporary loss of sensation, including total loss of consciousness (general anesthesia), inhibition of anxiety and memory formation (sedation), or the reduction of nerve impulse transmission from a specific body part (regional/local anesthesia).

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most common anesthesia procedures and services ranked by relative volume using 2021 medical claims data.

Top anesthesia procedures in 2021

Rank HCPCS/CPT Code HCPCS/CPT Description % Total Procedures % Total Charges
1 99152 Moderate sedation, patient >5 years 8.60% 1.30%
2 731 Anesthesia, upper GI tract endoscopy 7.30% 6.30%
3 142 Anesthesia, eye lens surgery 6.10% 3.60%
4 812 Anesthesia, lower intestine screening colonoscopy 6.10% 4.80%
5 811 Anesthesia, lower intestine endoscopy 5.80% 4.70%
6 813 Anesthesia, lower abdomen screening 3.70% 3.80%
7 99100 Special anesthesia service 3.40% 0.40%
8 99153 Moderate sedation, additional 15 minutes 3.40% 0.60%
9 1967 Anesthesia, vaginal delivery 3.10% 6.30%
10 840 Anesthesia, lower abdomen surgery 3.00% 4.60%
11 790 Anesthesia, upper abdomen surgery 2.70% 4.40%
12 400 Anesthesia, thorax surgery 1.90% 1.60%
13 1480 Anesthesia, lower leg bone surgery 1.70% 1.80%
14 170 Anesthesia, oral procedure 1.70% 1.50%
15 1810 Anesthesia, lower arm surgery 1.50% 1.10%
16 1400 Anesthesia, knee joint surgery 1.40% 1.50%
17 1402 Anesthesia, knee arthroplasty 1.40% 2.40%
18 1961 Anesthesia, cesarean delivery 1.40% 2.00%
19 1922 Anesthesia, CAT or MRI scan 1.30% 1.60%
20 99140 Emergency anesthesia 1.30% 0.30%

Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMx product and sourced from proprietary research and multiple medical claims clearinghouses. Data accurate as of October 2022.

Which anesthesia procedures were performed most in 2021?

Moderate sedation for a patient over five years old was the most-performed anesthesia procedure in 2021, accounting for 8.6% of all anesthesia procedure claims that year and 1.3% of total charges. This form of anesthesia renders patients in a state of reduced consciousness without being unconscious or asleep and can be used prior to many routine procedures.

This particular CPT code is used to log the first 15 minutes from the administration of the sedation agent; subsequent time is logged with code 99153—ranked in 7th place on our list.

Second on our list is anesthesia for endoscopy of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which accounts for 7.3% of total anesthesia procedures and 6.3% of charges in 2021. These procedures involve the insertion of an endoscope down to the upper duodenum—the part of the small intestines just below the stomach. Gastroenterological conditions are listed as the primary diagnosis for approximately 66.4 million hospital visits each year, and endoscopies enable providers to accurately diagnose and treat these conditions.

Taking third is anesthesia for eye lens surgery, representing 6.1% of anesthesia procedures that year. In the case of common corrective surgeries like LASIK, this generally involves the use of topical anesthetic eye drops.

How does anesthesia work?

Different categories of anesthesia work by different mechanisms. General anesthesia works by suppressing the central nervous system via injected or inhaled drugs, which produces total unconsciousness and lack of sensation. Similarly, sedation also suppresses the central nervous system, just to a lesser degree.

Regional and local anesthesia inhibit the transmission of nerve impulses to prevent feeling in certain body parts. These drugs can target the peripheral nerves of a tooth or limb, for instance, or be used to suppress activity within entire nerve regions, such as in the case of an epidural.

Interestingly, while anesthesia reduces consciousness, it doesn’t seem to inhibit dreaming. About one in five patients report dreaming during general anesthesia.

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