CPT: an open system that describes all that you do

J Am Coll Radiol. 2008 Apr;5(4):555-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2007.10.004.


The American Medical Association, with the cooperation of multiple major medical specialty societies, including the ACR, responded in 1966 to the need for a complete coding system for describing medical procedures and services with the first publication of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). This system, now CPT IV, forms the basis of reporting of virtually all inpatient and outpatient services performed by physicians and nonphysician health care providers as well as facilities. This coding system and its maintenance process have evolved in complexity and sophistication, particularly in the past decade, such that it is now integral to all facets of health care, including tracking new and investigational procedures and reporting and monitoring performance measures (read "pay for performance"), in addition to its long-standing use for reporting for reimbursement. To paraphrase a recent automobile commercial, "This is not your father's CPT." The author describes the development of CPT as it exists today, examining the forces that molded its current form, the input opportunities available to medical specialty societies and others, the ever increasing transparency of the CPT maintenance process, and the availability of resources allowing all to stay current. Understanding this system, critical to the practice of all of medicine, including radiology, will aid all health care providers in maintaining the quality, efficiency, and accuracy of their practices' business operations as well as assist them in a world of increasingly complex reporting requirements.

MeSH terms

  • Current Procedural Terminology*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / classification*
  • Forms and Records Control / standards*
  • Humans
  • Radiology / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States