Modifier 53

(2023) Modifier 53 | Discontinued Procedure Explained

Under certain circumstances, the physician may elect to terminate a surgical or diagnostic procedure due to extenuating circumstances or those that threaten the patient’s well-being. In that case, modifier 53 must be appended to the relevant CPT codes.

This circumstance may be reported by adding Modifier 53 to the code for the discontinued procedure.

This modifier is not used to report the elective cancellation of a procedure prior to the inducing anesthesia and/or surgical preparation in the operating suite.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and CPT coding guidelines, modifier 53 should be used with surgical or medical diagnostic codes.

The official description of the 53 modifier is: “Discontinued Procedure.”

Inappropriate Usage Of Modifier 53

Don’t use the 53 modifier with:

  • Evaluation and management (E/M) services
  • Elective cancellation of a procedure before the patient’s anesthesia induction and/or surgical preparation in the operating suite
  • When a laparoscopic or endoscopic procedure is converted to an open procedure or when a procedure is changed or converted to a more extensive procedure.

It is not appropriate to use modifier 53 if a portion of the intended procedure was completed and a code exists that represents the completed portion of the intended procedure.


Providers may ask to submit Medical records, and the payer reviews the claim and operative report, looking specifically for dictation that supports or identifies the extenuating circumstances that threaten the patient’s well-being and require the procedure to be discontinued.

Reimbursement of discontinued procedures with CPT modifier 53 is 25 to 30 percent of the allowable amount for the primary unmodified procedure. Multiple procedure reductions will still apply.

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