Healthcare Insights

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

RankHCPCS/CPT codeHCPCS/CPT description% Total procedures% Total chargesExplore dataset
199152Moderate sedation, patient >5 years8.60%1.30%Explore
2731Anesthesia, upper GI tract endoscopy7.30%6.30%Explore
3142Anesthesia, eye lens surgery6.10%3.60%Explore
4812Anesthesia, lower intestine screening colonoscopy6.10%4.80%Explore
5811Anesthesia, lower intestine endoscopy5.80%4.70%Explore
6813Anesthesia, lower abdomen screening3.70%3.80%Explore
799100Special anesthesia service3.40%0.40%Explore
899153Moderate sedation, additional 15 minutes3.40%0.60%Explore
91967Anesthesia, vaginal delivery3.10%6.30%Explore
10840Anesthesia, lower abdomen surgery3.00%4.60%Explore
11790Anesthesia, upper abdomen surgery2.70%4.40%Explore
12400Anesthesia, thorax surgery1.90%1.60%Explore
131480Anesthesia, lower leg bone surgery1.70%1.80%Explore
14170Anesthesia, oral procedure1.70%1.50%Explore
151810Anesthesia, lower arm surgery1.50%1.10%Explore
161400Anesthesia, knee joint surgery1.40%1.50%Explore
171402Anesthesia, knee arthroplasty1.40%2.40%Explore
181961Anesthesia, cesarean delivery1.40%2.00%Explore
191922Anesthesia, CAT or MRI scan1.30%1.60%Explore
2099140Emergency anesthesia1.30%0.30%Explore

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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