CPT code 29881

CPT Code 29881 | Arthroscopy Of The Knee Joint With Meniscectomy

Report CPT code 29881 if a provider examined a knee joint with an arthroscope and repaired it by removal of the meniscus. 

What Is CPT Code 29881?

CPT 29881 may be used when a provider uses an arthroscope to examine the knee joint of the patient and repairs it by removal of the meniscus from the medial or lateral compartments of the joint.

They can reshape the articular cartilage covering the bony surfaces by shaving or excising it if required.

The CPT code 29881 procedure aims to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.


The CPT book describes CPT code 29881: “Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; with meniscectomy (medial OR lateral, including any meniscal shaving) including debridement/shaving of articular cartilage (chondroplasty), same or separate compartment(s), when performed.”


When the patient is appropriately prepped and anesthetized, the provider makes small incisions in the knee area.

She inserts the arthroscope through one of the incisions into the knee joint. Then, she instills saline solution into the area to expand the area around the knee joint.

She inspects the joint and uses instruments to enter the medial or lateral compartment and excise the meniscus.

If necessary, she debrides the articular cartilage on the bony surface in either compartment.

The provider then irrigates the area, checks for bleeding, remove instruments, and closes the incisions.

How To Use CPT 29881

Report CPT 29881 to describe this procedure in either the medial or lateral compartment; however, report the same procedure performed in both compartments of the same knee as CPT 29880.


Underneath four billing examples for CPT code 29881.

Example 1

Arthroscopic left lateral meniscectomy and arthroscopic Chondroplasty are performed and documented by the surgeon. The code 29881 is reportable.

Even though the physician conducts treatment in two independent compartments, the Chondroplasty is all-inclusive and not separately reportable.

In addition, Chondroplasty is not individually reportable because the information and medical necessity supported meniscectomy as the primary treatment.

Example 2

The surgeon recorded CPT 29882 and CPT 29881-59 for a right medial Meniscectomy, lateral meniscal repair, and tri-compartmental Chondroplasty. CPT code 29881 has a modifier 59 to indicate a separate procedure in a different anatomic site (lateral repair vs. medial meniscectomy).

Even though CPT code 29882 does not bundle the Chondroplasty. But CPT 29881 prevents Chondroplasty from being reported in the patellofemoral compartment.

Example 3

The physician initially inserts the arthroscope through the anterolateral portal. And then through the medial suprapatellar portal. The lateral compartment appeared to be in good condition.

There were some minor degenerative alterations in the medial column. He detected a full-thickness region of osteochondral degeneration with a cartilage flap in the medial compartment.

He may use a bleeding bony bed with beveled cartilage edges to remove it. The ligament itself appeared to be in good condition. He detected Grade I chondromalacia alterations in the retro-patellar region.

He examined the medial joint and found a tear at the intersection of the middle and posterior parts of the meniscus and a flap tear more anterior.

The meniscus was debrided back to a smooth, stable rim using a combination of small baskets and punches. He used the curved automated meniscal incisor to remove another synovitis.

The physician performed a surgical arthroscopy of the knee. We’ll look for the CPT arthroscopy/surgical/knee 29866 – 29868 or 29871 – 29889. The coder documented CPT 29881, a medial meniscectomy, and debridement.

The synovectomy, code 29875, is a different procedure combined with CPT 29881 and not recorded separately in this case.

Example 4

The patient’s medial meniscus tears apart. The provider inserted an arthroscope through the anterolateral portal for the diagnostic procedure. Only the patellar side of the patellofemoral joint had grade 2 chondromalacia.

And he debrided it with a 4.0-mm shaver. A complicated posterior horn rupture of the medial meniscus was present in the medial compartment. He examined it to determine its boundaries. To achieve a secure rim, he performed a meniscectomy.

Because the tear was in the medial meniscus, the code is 29881. The provider performed a meniscectomy and shaver debridement (or Chondroplasty).

The coder does not report CPT 29877 because it is part of CPT 29881. Because the provider completed a meniscectomy in both the medial and lateral compartments, CPT 29880 is not acceptable.

The surgery began as a diagnostic test, but the doctor opted to undertake surgical treatments on the knee, which changed the outcome.

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