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CPT 87811 | SARS-CoV-2 Detection By Immunoassay With Direct Optical Observation

CPT 87811 is a laboratory test for detecting the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a patient’s specimen using an immunoassay and direct optical observation.

What Is CPT Code 87811?

CPT code 87811 is a medical code used to describe a laboratory test to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) in a patient’s specimen (usually a nasopharyngeal swab).

The test uses an immunoassay, which is a type of test that involves the interaction of antibodies and antigens.

The test is performed by a lab analyst who takes a specimen from the patient, mixes it with a reagent that contains an antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and then uses direct optical observation to determine whether the virus is present in the specimen.

If the virus is present, it may cause a change in color on a card or device used in the test. This test may be ordered for patients with symptoms such as fever, cough, and muscle aches, to determine if they have COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.


The CPT book describes CPT 87811 as: “Infectious agent antigen detection by immunoassay with direct optical (ie, visual) observation; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (coronavirus disease [COVID-19]).”


The lab analyst performs all technical steps to analyze for the presence of SARS–CoV–2 in a specimen by immunoassay, which is an antibody–antigen reaction, and by direct optical observation.

The analyst will take a specimen from the patient, a nasopharyngeal swab, and place the swab in a reagent that contains an antibody to SARS–CoV–2 antigens.

The analyst typically drops this liquid mixture onto a card or device that will give an optical result. For example, the card or device may turn a particular color if SARS–CoV–2 is present or may show a line or optical indicator for this virus.

Although not limited to testing for a specific condition, clinicians may order this test for a patient with symptoms such as fever, cough, and muscle aches to determine if the patient has COVID–19 caused by the SARS–CoV–2 viruses.

How To Use CPT 87811

CPT code 87811 is a CLIA-Waived test.

Labs may describe these tests as optical immunoassays. The key to this code is that the lab makes the determination based on some visual observation, such as a color change.

Clinician offices often perform this type of test due to the simplicity of performance and because it does not generally require any special equipment; it is based on an observable result from visual inspection.


CPT Professional 2022

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