MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS)

Number 7.01.109

Effective Date April 8, 2013

Revision Date(s) 04/08/13; 04/10/12; 05/10/11; 04/13/10; 03/10/09; 04/08/08; 03/13/07; 09/12/06; 08/09/05; 09/14/04

Replaces N/A


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided high-intensity ultrasound ablation is considered investigational. This includes, but is not limited to, its use in the following situations:

  • Treatment of uterine fibroids;
  • Pain palliation for patients with metastatic bone cancer;
  • Treatment of other tumors e.g., brain cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Related Policies


Hysterectomy Surgery

Policy Guidelines

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided high-intensity ultrasound ablation of uterine fibroids is specifically identified by the following category III CPT codes, introduced in July 2004:

0071T Focused ultrasound ablation of uterine leiomyomata, including MR guidance; total leiomyomata volume of less than 200 cc of tissue

0072T As above, but with total leiomyomata volume greater or equal to 200 cc of tissue

These CPT codes should not be used in conjunction with 51702 (insertion of temporary indwelling bladder catheter, simple) or 77022 (magnetic resonance imaging guidance for, and monitoring of, visceral tissue ablation). Prior to the introduction of the specific category III CPT codes, the procedure may have been coded by using several codes describing the individual components of the procedure. CPT codes 0071T-0072T describe the comprehensive service.

The procedure may be performed in a MRI suite with an open MRI scanner, which may not be available at many institutions. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, with the patient under conscious sedation.


An integrated system providing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) treatment is proposed as a noninvasive therapy for uterine fibroids and for pain palliation of bone metastases. MRgFUS is also being investigated for the treatment of other benign and malignant tumors.


Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a non-invasive treatment that combined 2 technologies, focused ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The ultrasound beam penetrates through the soft tissues and, using MRI for guidance and monitoring, the beam can be focused on targeted sites. The ultrasound causes a local increase in temperature in the target tissue, resulting in coagulation necrosis while sparing the surrounding normal structures. The ultrasound waves from each sonication are focused at a focal point which has a maximum focal volume of 20 nm in diameter and 15 nm in height/length. This causes a rapid rise in temperature (i.e., to approximately 65°C to 85°C), which is sufficient to achieve tissue ablation at the focal point. In addition to providing guidance, the associated MRI can provide on-line thermometric imaging that provides a temperature “map” that can further confirm the therapeutic effect of the ablation treatment and allow for real-time adjustment of the treatment parameters.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the ExAblate® MRgFUS system (InSightec, Inc., Haifa, Israel) for 2 indications; treatment of uterine fibroids and for palliation of pain associated with tumors metastatic to bone. The ultrasound equipment is specially designed to be compatible with MR magnets and is integrated into standard clinical MRI units. It includes a patient table, which includes a cradle housing the focused ultrasound transducer in a water or light oil bath. Some models of the device have a detachable cradle; only certain cradle types can be used for palliation of pain associated with metastatic bone cancer.

To date, the primary clinical application of MRgFUS has been treatment of uterine fibroids (leiomyomata), one of the most common conditions affecting women in the reproductive years. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include menorrhagia, pelvic pressure, or pain. There are several approaches that are currently available to treat symptomatic uterine fibroids: hysterectomy; abdominal myomectomy; laparoscopic and hysteroscopic myomectomy; hormone therapy; uterine artery embolization; and watchful waiting. Hysterectomy and various myomectomy procedures are considered the gold standard treatment.

For treating pain associated with bone metastases, the aim of MRgFUS treatment is to destroy nerves in the bone surface surrounding the tumor. Metastatic bone disease is one of the most common causes of cancer pain. Existing treatments include conservative measures (e.g., massage, exercise), pharmacologic agents (e.g., analgesics, bisphosphates, and corticosteroids) and radiotherapy, especially conventional external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) for tumors that do not involve the nervous system.

MRgFUS is also being investigated for treatment of other tumors, including breast, prostate, and brain tumors.

Regulatory Status

In October 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved via the premarket application (PMA) process, the ExAblate® 2000 System for “ablation of uterine fibroid tissue in pre- or peri-menopausal women with symptomatic uterine fibroids who desire a uterine sparing procedure.” Treatment is indicated for women with a uterine gestational size of less than 24 weeks who have completed childbearing.

In October 2012, the FDA approved the ExAblate® System, Model 2000/2100/2100 VI via the PMA process. The intended use of the device is for pain palliation in adult patients with metastatic bone cancer who failed or are not candidates for radiation therapy. The device was evaluated through an expedited review process. The FDA required a post-approval study with 70 patients to evaluate the effectiveness of the system under actual clinical conditions.


Medical policies are systematically developed guidelines that serve as a resource for Company staff when determining coverage for specific medical procedures, drugs or devices. Coverage for medical services is subject to the limits and conditions of the member benefit plan. Members and their providers should consult the member benefit booklet or contact a customer service representative to determine whether there are any benefit limitations applicable to this service or supply.

Benefit Application

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided high-intensity ultrasound ablation of uterine fibroids is currently performed at a limited number of institutions; therefore, out of network referral may be requested.


This policy was originally created in July 2004. A June 2005 TEC Assessment on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided focused ultrasound therapy (MRgFUS) for symptomatic uterine leiomyomata found insufficient evidence of efficacy compared to conventional therapies. (1) The policy was updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature search was performed for the period December 2011 through January 3, 2013. Following is a summary of the literature to date on MRgFUS for the treatment of uterine fibroids and other conditions:

Uterine Fibroids

To date, no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been published using MRgFUS. There is one published non-randomized study comparing MRgFUS to another treatment for uterine fibroids; this is the “pivotal” study designed for U.S. Food and Drug Adminisration (FDA)-approval of the ExAblate® 2000 device. (2, 3) The study included 109 women treated with MRgFUS and 83 women treated with abdominal hysterectomy. The primary outcome was change in the symptom severity score (SSS) that is part of the validated Uterine Fibroid Symptom Quality of Life. Symptom severity is measured by 8 questions relevant to bulk and bleeding symptoms; it is a 0-100 scale, with higher number representing greater severity of symptoms. Outcome data were initially reported for the MRgFUS group only. At 6 months’ follow-up, 71% of the MRgFUS group achieved a 10-point or greater reduction in SSS, but this decreased to 51% at 12 months. It is unclear what represents a clinically meaningful change in the primary outcome measure (SSS). A threshold of greater than 10 points was selected for the analysis, but this is somewhat arbitrary and not substantiated by other research. Twenty-one percent of those treated by MRgFUS needed additional surgical treatment, and 4% underwent a repeat MRgFUS by 12 months.

In 2009, Taran and colleagues reported outcomes for the hysterectomy group. (4) The Taran article did not include the original primary outcome measure, SSS scores, and instead reported findings on a different quality of life measure, the Short Form-36 (SF-36); also reported were safety data. A significantly higher proportion of women in the hysterectomy group (82 out of 83, 99%) reported at least one adverse event compared to women in the MRgFUS group (88 out of 109, 81%). Pain or discomfort, adverse events associated with the gastrointestinal tract, dermatological system, nervous system and cardiovascular system were significantly more common in the hysterectomy group. However, a similar proportion reported a serious adverse event, 9 of 109 (8%) in the MRgFUS group and 8 of 83 (10%) in the hysterectomy group. At 6 months, there were significantly higher scores in the hysterectomy group on 2 out of 8 sub-scales on the SF-36; scores on the remaining subscales did not differ significantly between groups. The SF-36 scores are subject to a multiple comparison bias; a large number of statistical comparisons were done for secondary outcomes and p-values were not adjusted. Moreover, it was not clear why the original primary outcome, the SSS, was not reported.

Another non-randomized comparative study compared two variations on the MRgFUS procedure. (5) Patients were either treated with the original protocol (33% of fibroid volume with a maximum treatment time of 120 min, n=96) or modified protocol (50% treatment volume, 180 min maximum treatment time, and a second treatment if within a 14-day period, n=64). In the original group, the nonperfused (effectively treated) area was calculated at 17% of fibroid volume compared with 26% of fibroid volume with the modified protocol. Overall, symptom severity was reported to have decreased from a score of 62 at baseline to 33 at 12 months, with fewer patients in the modified group choosing alternative treatment (28% vs. 37%, respectively). Interpretation of these results is limited by 49% loss to follow-up; 55 patients (57%) from the original treatment protocol completed follow-up. Only 21 patients (33%) from the modified protocol group were evaluable at 12-month follow-up.

A 2007 publication reported 24-month follow-up from three Phase III trials and 1 postmarketing study (total of 416 patients). (6) The study found a relationship between the nonperfused volume ratio and the probability of undergoing additional leiomyoma treatment. For nonperfused volume ratios of 20% to 50%, there was a 25% probability of additional treatment. Patients with a nonperfused volume ratio of less than 20% of fibroid volume had a 40% probability of additional treatment. No shrinkage (and a trend toward growth) was seen with nonperfused volume ratios of 10% or less. Most women were found to have had limited treatments, with 57% of the patients having a nonperfused volume of 20% or less and 34% of the patients having a nonperfused volume between 30% and 70%. Fewer than 3% of women had a nonperfused volume ratio of 70% or greater. These results raise questions about the amount of nonperfusion achieved with current treatment protocols.

Several case series have reported on the efficacy and safety of MRgFUS for treating uterine fibroids. For example, a 2011 case series included 40 women who were treated with MRgFUS for symptomatic uterine fibroids at one center in the U.S. (7) The primary study endpoints were change from baseline in quality of life (QOL) and symptom severity. (Higher scores on the quality of life measure and lower scores on the symptom severity measure indicated improvement). Twenty-nine of the 40 (73%) patients completed the three-year follow-up. The mean symptom severity score was 64.8 at baseline and 17.0 at 3 years; this represents a mean reduction of 47.8 points. The mean baseline QOL score was 44.1 and the mean QOL at the 3-year follow-up was 83.9, a mean increase of 39.8 points. The improvement from baseline to 3 years was statistically significant for both outcome variables; however, there is no control group with which to compare results. Another 2011 single-center case series reported 12-month outcome data on 130 women treated with MRgFUS. (8) Eight women had additional procedures to relieve symptoms within one-year of MRgFUS treatment; 7 underwent hysterectomy and 1 underwent endometrial ablation. Data on symptom relief at 12 months were available for 70 of 130 (54%) of patients. Fifty-one of the 70 (73%) reported excellent symptom relief. Conclusions about efficacy of MRgFUS cannot be drawn due to the lack of a comparison group and the large amount of missing data.

A prospective registry of pregnancies after MRgFUS had been maintained by the manufacturer of the ExAblate device. A 2010 article reported that there were 54 known pregnancies a mean of 8 months after treatment. (9) They included 8 pregnancies from clinical trials designed for women who did not desire pregnancy, 26 pregnancies after commercial treatment and 20 pregnancies in 17 patients from an ongoing study of MRgFUS in women trying to conceive. Twenty-two of the 54 pregnancies (42%) resulted in deliveries, 11 were ongoing beyond 20 weeks at the time the article was written. There were 14 miscarriages (26%) and 7 elective terminations (13%). Among the 22 live births, the mean birth weight of live births was 3.3 kg and the vaginal delivery rate was 64%. The article provides initial information on the impact of MRgFUS for uterine fibroids on pregnancy; findings suggest that fertility may be maintained but the number of cases is too small to draw definitive conclusions. Moreover, the study does not address the possible impact of MRgFUS treatment on the ability to become pregnant.


For the treatment of uterine fibroids, there are no randomized controlled trials and only one non-randomized study comparing MRgFUS to a different treatment. Limitations of the published comparative study include lack of randomization, data on the comparison group were not published until 5 years after data on the treatment group, the clinical significance of the primary outcome was unclear, and there were no follow-up data beyond 1 year. There is insufficient evidence on the long-term treatment effects, recurrence rates, and impact on future fertility and pregnancy.

Palliative Treatment of Bone Metastases

FDA approval of the ExAblate® device for palliative treatment of bone metastases was based on findings of an RCT described in the Summary of Safety and Effectiveness document (10). Study results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The study includes patients with intractable pain associated with a well-defined bone tumor site (metastatic or multiple myeloma). To participate, patients needed to have a numeric rating scale (NRS) of at least 4 out of a maximum score of 10. Participants were randomized in a 3:1 ratio to active (n=125) or sham (n=41) MRgFUS treatment. Patients without a lesion that was accessible by the device or who received fewer than 3 of 4 planned sonications were considered a screen failure and exited from the study. Fifteen of 125 (12%) in the active treatment group and 4 of 41 (10%) in the sham group were screen failures. In addition, 8 other patients were excluded, 5 because they were found to have re-enrolled in the study. Thus, 104 patients in the active treatment group and 35 in the sham group (139 of 166, 84% of randomized patients) completed treatment and were included in the “intention to treat” efficacy analysis presented to the FDA. The study completed population consisted of 79 active treatment participants and 12 sham participants.

The primary efficacy outpoint was change in the NRS score. The investigators considered patients to be responders if they had at least a 2-point decrease in the NRS score from baseline to 3 months. The investigators stratified efficacy findings according to whether or not patients were in the Russian cohort or the non-Russian cohort (study sites in the U.S., Canada, Israel, and Europe). The investigators noted that ExAblate® had already been marketed in Russia and that patient management there tended to involve deeper sedation/anesthesia which might make it easier for patients to achieve thermally ablative temperatures. In the non-Russian cohort (n=83), the proportion of patients who had at least a 2-point decrease in the NRS was 35 of 64 (55%) in the active treatment group and 5 of 19 (26%) in the sham group, p=0.04. In the Russian cohort (n=56), 36 of 40 patients (90%) in the active treatment group were considered responders compared to 2 of 16 patients (13%) in the sham group, p<0.0001. Among secondary outcomes was change in the quality of life measure, the brief pain inventory (BPI). In the non-Russian cohort, mean change in the BPI score from baseline was 2.19 in the active treatment group and 0.74 in the sham group (p=0.048). In the Russian cohort, mean change in BPI was 2.66 in the active treatment group and -0.48 (i.e. an increase in pain) in the sham group, p<0.0001. Limitations of the study include the large number of randomized patients excluded from analysis, the small number of study completers in the sham group and potentially inconsistent protocols at different sites. In addition, patient follow-up was only 3 months.

Several manufacturer-sponsored case series on MRgFUS for pain palliation in bone metastases have been published. In 2009, Liberman and colleagues published findings of a multicenter prospective study conducted in Canada, Israel, and Germany. (11) The study included 31 patients with painful bone metastases who had failed or refused other treatment options; 25 patients (81%) were available for 3-month follow-up. The mean VAS score decreased from 5.9 before treatment to 1.8 three months after treatment. Thirteen of 25 patients who used non-opioid analgesics and 6 of 10 who used opioids decreased medication use after treatment. Neither series reported any treatment-related adverse effects.


The RCT submitted to the FDA showed benefit of MRgFUS compared to sham treatment for pain palliation of bone metastases but has limitations e.g., incomplete follow-up and short-term length of follow-up (3 months). No other studies comparing MRgFUS to another treatment for palliation of pain associated with bone metastases have been published. One RCT comparing MRgFUS to external beam radiation is underway (see section on ongoing clinical trials, below). Thus, the evidence is insufficient that MRgFUS improves health outcomes in patients with painful bone metastases.

Treatment of other Tumors

Only small case series have been published investigating the safety and/or efficacy of MRgFUS for treating other tumors, including breast cancer, (12-15) brain cancer, (16) and prostate cancer. (17)

Ongoing Clinical Trials

The FIRSST: Comparing MRgFUS (MR guided Focused Ultrasound) versus UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization) (NCT00995878) (18): This is a randomized controlled trial comparing MRgFUS to UAE in pre-menopausal women at least 25 years of age who have symptomatic uterine fibroids. The study is sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. Estimated enrollment is 180 patients.

Study Comparing the Safety and Effectiveness of Magnetic Resonance Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) and External Beam Radiation (EBRT) for Treatment of Metastatic Bone Tumors and Multiple Myeloma (NCT01091883) (19): This RCT is comparing MRgFUS to EBRT in adult patients with painful bone metastasis (i.e., worse numeric rating scale [NRS] pain score at least 4 out of 10). The study is sponsored by Insightec. Expected enrollment is 60 patients.


There is insufficient evidence from randomized controlled trials or nonrandomized controlled trials that magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) improves the net health outcome for any clinical application. Additional well-designed studies with sufficient numbers of patients, high rates of follow-up and sufficient lengths of follow-up are needed. Thus, MRgFUS is considered investigational for treatment of uterine fibroids, pain palliation in patients with bone metastases and other applications.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

A search of the National Guideline Clearinghouse database in January 2013 did not identify any practice guidelines that included recommendations on MRgFUS for treating uterine fibroids or other conditions.

Medicare National Coverage

There is no coverage determination.


  1. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (TEC). Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound therapy for symptomatic uterine fibroids. TEC Assessments 2005: Volume 20, Tab 10.
  2. Hindley J, Gedroyc WM, Regan L et al. MRI guidance of focused ultrasound therapy of uterine fibroids: early results. Am J Radiol 2004; 173:1713-9.
  3. Stewart EA, Rabinovici J, Tempany CM et al. Clinical outcomes of focused ultrasound surgery for the treatment of uterine fibroids. Fertil Steril 2006;85:22-9.
  4. Taran FA, Tempany CM, Regan L et al. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) compared with abdominal hysterectomy for treatment of uterine leiomyomas. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2009; 34(5):572-8.
  5. Fennessy FM, Tempany CM, McDannold NJ et al. Uterine leiomyomas: MR imaging-guided focused ultrasound surgery–results of different treatment protocols. Radiology 2007; 243(3):885-93.
  6. Stewart EA, Gostout B, Rabinovici J et al. Sustained relief of leiomyoma symptoms by using focused ultrasound surgery. Obstet Gynecol 2007; 110(2 pt 1):279-87.
  7. Kim HS, Baik JH, Pham LD et al. MR-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment for symptomatic uterine leiomyomata: long-term outcomes. Acad Radiol 2011; 18(8):970-6.
  8. Gorny KR, Woodrum DA, Brown DL et al. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound of uterine leiomyomas: review of a 12-month outcome of 130 clinical patients. J Vasc Interv Radiol 2011; 22(6):857-64.
  9. Rabinovici J, David M, Fukunishi H et al. Pregnancy outcome after magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS) for conservative treatment of uterine fibroids. Fertil Steril 2010; 93(1):199-209.
  10. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Summary of safety and effectiveness data: PMA number: P110039. 2012. Available online at: Last accessed January, 2013.
  11. Liberman B, Gianfelice D, Inbar Y et al. Pain palliation in patients with bone metastases using MR-guided focused ultrasound surgery: a multicenter study. Ann Surg Oncol 2009; 16(1):140-6.
  12. Zippel DB, Papa MZ. The use of MR imaging guided focused ultrasound in breast cancer patients; a preliminary phase one study and review. Breast Cancer 2005; 12(1):32-8.
  13. Hyneynen K, Pomeroy O, Smith DN et al. MR imaging-guided focused ultrasound surgery of fibroadenomas in the breast: a feasibility study. Radiology 2001; 219:176-84.
  14. Gianfelice D, Khiat A, Amara M et al. MR imaging-guided focused US ablation of breast cancer: histopathologic assessment of effectiveness – initial experience. Radiology 2003; 227(3):849-55.
  15. Gianfelice D, Khiat A, Amara M et al. MR imaging-guided focused ultrasound surgery of breast cancer: correlation of dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI with histopathologic findings. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2003; 82:93-101.
  16. McDannold N, Clement GT, Black P et al. Transcranial magnetic imaging-guided focused ultrasound surgery of brain tumors: initial findings in 3 patients. Neurosurgery 2010; 66(2):323-32.
  17. Napoli A, Anzidei M, De Nunzio C et al. Real-time magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound focal therapy for localised prostate cancer: preliminary experience. Eur Urol 2013; 63(2):395-8.
  18. The FIRSST: Comparing MRgFUS (MR guided Focused Ultrasound) versus UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization) (NCT00995878). Last updated November 22, 2011. Available online at: Last accessed March 8, 2013.
  19. Sponsored by Insightec. Study Comparing the Safety and Effectiveness of Magnetic Resonance Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) and External Beam Radiation (EBRT) for Treatment of Metastatic Bone Tumors and Multiple Myeloma (NCT01091883). Available online at: Last accessed March 8, 2013.







Focused ultrasound ablation of uterine leiomyomata, including MR guidance; total leiomyomata volume of less than 200 cc of tissue



total leiomyomata volume greater or equal to 200 cc of tissue



Unlisted procedure, breast



Unlisted procedure, female genital system (nonobstetrical)



Unlisted procedure, male genital system

ICD-9 Procedure


ICD-9 Diagnosis


Uterine leiomyoma, submucous leiomyoma of uterus



Intramural leiomyoma of uterus



Subserous leiomyoma of uterus



Leiomyoma of uterus, unspecified

(effective 10/1/14)


Leiomyoma of uterus code range

(effective 10/1/14)


Imaging, female reproductive system, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), uterus, no contrast



Type of Service


Place of Service








Add to OB/GYN Section - New Policy


Replace Policy - Policy updated with June 2005 TEC Assessment; references added; policy statement unchanged.


Update Scope and Disclaimer - No other changes.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature review; title expanded to include, “and Other Tumors” reflecting indications other than uterine fibroids; “MRI-guided high intensity ultrasound ablation of other tumors…is considered investigational” added to policy statement; references added.


Replace Policy - Policy moved from OB/GYN to Surgery section and assigned a new number (previously BC.4.01.20).


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature search; no change to the policy statement. References added.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature search; no change to the policy statement. Title updated to remove “High-intensity” and “ablation of”. References added.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature search. Policy statement updated to include palliative tx of bone metastases added to the investigational statement regarding tx of conditions other than uterine fibroids. References added.


Replace Policy - Policy updated with literature review through December 2010. Reference numbers 10, 21, 22 and 25 added; other references reordered or removed. No change to policy statements. ICD-10 codes added to policy.


Replace policy. Policy updated with literature review through December 2011. Reference numbers 7, 8 and 10 added; other references reordered or removed. No change to policy statements.


Update Coding Section – ICD-10 codes are now effective 10/01/2014.


Code update: CPT codes 19499, 55899 and 58999 added to the policy to support policy information and tumors.


Update Related Policies, add 7.01.548.


Replace policy. Policy updated with literature review. Policy changed to single investigational statement; no change to intent of policy. Policy title changed to MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS). References 10 and 17 added; other references renumbered or removed. CPT code 58999 corrected; it previously appeared as 55899, which is not the correct code.

Disclaimer: This medical policy is a guide in evaluating the medical necessity of a particular service or treatment. The Company adopts policies after careful review of published peer-reviewed scientific literature, national guidelines and local standards of practice. Since medical technology is constantly changing, the Company reserves the right to review and update policies as appropriate. Member contracts differ in their benefits. Always consult the member benefit booklet or contact a member service representative to determine coverage for a specific medical service or supply. CPT codes, descriptions and materials are copyrighted by the American Medical Association (AMA).
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