ACS releases 2018 update to the Physicians as Assistants at Surgery report

The American College of Surgeons (ACS), in collaboration with 15 other national specialty surgical organizations, has recently published the eighth edition of the Physicians as Assistants at Surgery report, a study first undertaken in 1994. The 2018 report reflects the most recent clinical practices and provides guidance on how often an operation might require a physician to assist at surgery.  The report is available on the ACS website.

Using the American Medical Association’s Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes from the 2018 manual, each participating organization reviewed new or revised codes since 2016 and any other codes of interest that are applicable to their specialty and indicated whether the operation requires a physician as an assistant with the following frequency: almost always, almost never, or some of the time. The 2018 report adds 93 codes that the CPT Editorial Panel has approved since the last report was issued in 2016. In addition, the 2018 report updates 384 revised codes and deletes 48 codes that are no longer in CPT.

The ACS maintains that a physician who assists with an operation should be trained to participate in and actively assist the surgeon in safely completing the operation. When a surgeon is unavailable to serve as an assistant, a qualified surgical resident or other qualified health care professional, such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant with experience in assisting, may participate in operations, according to the ACS Statements on Principles.

Organizations that collaborated with the ACS to conduct the study include the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the American Pediatric Surgical Association, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the American Urological Association, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Society for Surgical Oncology, the Society for Vascular Surgery, the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

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