MEDICAL POLICY

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Lumbar Spine Decompression Surgery: Discectomy, Foraminotomy, Laminotomy, Laminectomy

Number 7.01.551

Effective Date This policy is effective May 18, 2014.

Revision Date(s) 02/10/14, 01/14/14

Replaces N/A

Policy

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Lumbar spine decompression surgery may be considered medically necessary when applicable criteria are met.

Note: See Policy Guidelines for documentation information.

Lumbar Discectomy (Diskectomy), Foraminotomy, Laminotomy

  • Lumbar discectomy (discectomy), foraminotomy, laminotomy surgery may be considered medically necessary for the following:
  • The rapid progression of neurologic impairment (e.g. cauda equina syndrome, foot drop, extremity weakness, saddle anesthesia, sudden onset of bladder or bowel dysfunction).
  • Lumbar discectomy (diskectomy), foraminotomy, laminotomy may be considered medically necessary when ALL of the following criteria are met:
  • other sources of low back pain have been ruled out AND
  • lumbar spine magnetic resonance image (MRI) or lumbar spine computerized tomography (CT) scan with myelogram within the past 6 months shows nerve root compression that corresponds to symptoms and physical examination findings or there is definitive neurological localization by other means (e.g. selective nerve root injections) (See Policy Guidelines) AND
  • debilitating pain radiating from the low back down to the lower extremity is present on a daily basis that limits activities of daily living (ADLs) AND
  • deficits (e.g., reflex change in the legs, dermatomal sensory loss, motor weakness) or alternative signs of lumbar root irritation (e.g. positive leg raising test) are present on physical examination AND
  • member has actively tried and failed at least 6 weeks of conservative medical management such as:
  • Activity modification
  • Oral analgesics and/or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Epidural steroid injections

Lumbar Laminectomy

  • Lumbar laminectomy may be considered medically necessary for the following:
  • rapid progression of neurologic impairment (e.g. cauda equina syndrome, foot drop, extremity weakness, saddle anesthesia, sudden onset of bowel or bladder dysfunction).

Spinal Stenosis

  • Lumbar laminectomy for spinal stenosis may be considered medically necessary when ALL of the following criteria are met:
  • other sources of low back pain have been ruled out AND
  • progressive, debilitating symptoms of neurogenic claudication (with or without back pain) are present on a daily basis that limits activities of daily living (ADLs) AND
  • lumbar spine MRI or lumbar spine CT scan with myelogram within the past 6 months shows lumbar spine stenosis that corresponds to the clinical findings on physicial examination (See Policy Guidelines) AND
  • member has actively tried and failed at least 12 weeks of conservative medical management such as:
  • Activity modification
  • Oral analgesics and/or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Epidural steroid injections

Other conditions

  • Lumbar laminectomy may be considered medically necessary for ANY of the following:
  • rhizotomy for spasticity in cerebral palsy
  • spondylolisthesis confirmed by a lumbar MRI study
  • neoplasm of the spine, non-cancerous spinal tumor, cysts that cause nerve root or spinal cord compression with corresponding neurological deficit, confirmed by a lumbar MRI study
  • infection confirmed by a lumbar MRI study
  • injury confirmed by a lumbar MRI study (e.g. epidural hematoma or foreign body)
  • trauma confirmed by a lumbar MRI study (e.g. spinal fracture, displaced fragment from a spinal fracture, vertebral dislocation together with instability, locked facets)

Lumbar spine decompression may be considered not medically necessary when no clinical indication is documented and confirmatory physical and radiologic findings that meets the relevant criteria listed in this policy are not present.

Note: The provider’s choice of interventional surgery depends on the specific member’s symptoms and imaging findings.

See Related Policies for other spinal procedures not addressed by this policy.

Related Policies

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6.01.23

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sacroiliac Joint Pain

7.01.107

Interspinous Distraction Devices (Spacers)

7.01.116

Facet Joint Denervation

7.01.126

Image-Guided Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression (IG-MLD) for Spinal Stenosis

7.01.130

Axial Lumbosacral Interbody Fusion

7.01.542

Lumbar Fusion

7.01.87

Artificial Intervertebral Disc: Lumbar Spine

8.03.501

Chiropractic Services

Policy Guidelines

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Administrative Guidelines

A pre-service review for all indications is strongly recommended. (See Benefit Application)

Medical necessity is established by documentation of medical history, physical findings, and diagnostic imaging results that demonstrate spinal nerve compression and support the surgical treatment intervention.

Documentation

Documentation in the medical record must clearly support the medical necessity of the surgery and include the following information:

Medical History

  • Co-morbid physical and psychological health conditions
  • History of back surgery, including minimally invasive back procedures
  • Prior trial, failure, or contraindication to conservative medical/non-operative interventions such as the following (the list is not all inclusive):
  • modification for at least 6 weeks
  • analgesics and/or anti-inflammatory medications
  • therapy
  • manipulation
  • steroid injections

Physical Examination

  • Clinical findings including the patient’s stated symptoms and duration

Diagnostic Test

  • Radiologist’s report of a magnetic resonance image (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan with myelogram of the lumbar spine within the past 6 months showing a lumbar spine abnormality
  • Report of the selective nerve root injection results, if applicable to the patient’s diagnostic workup

Definition of Terms

  • Cauda equina – the nerve roots (resembling a horse’s tail) that continue from where the spinal cord ends, and branches down to the lower part of the body. (Cauda equina is Latin for horse’s tail).
  • Equina Syndrome (CES) - a serious condition caused by compression of the cauda equina nerves of the lower spine; it is considered a surgical emergency. CES may be caused by a herniated disk, infection, cancer, trauma, or spinal stenosis. A rapid progression of neurologic symptoms is seen that may include but are not limited to severe sharp/stabbing debilitating low back pain that starts in the buttocks and travels down one or both legs, with severe muscle weakness, inability to start/stop urine flow, inability to start/stop bowel movement, loss of sensation below the waist and absence of lower extremity reflexes.
  • Dermatome/dematomal – each area of skin (dermis) has sensory nerve fibers coming from a single spinal nerve root (see Appendix).
  • – muscle of the back supplied by a nerve of the spine
  • – cartilage, tendons and endothelial cells that form the back bones and rib cartilage
  • Disc (intervertebral) – round flat “cushions” between each vertebra of the spine
  • Discectomy (diskectomy) – is the removal of herniated disc material/disc fragments that are compressing a nerve root or the spinal cord. A discectomy may be done to treat a ruptured disc. (Percutaneous discectomy is addressed in a separate policy. See Related Policies).
  • Dorsal rhizotmy – is the cutting of selected nerves in the lower spine to reduce leg spasticity in patients with cerebral palsy.
  • Foraminotomy (foraminectomy) – is the removal of bone and tissue to enlarge the opening (foramen) where a spinal nerve root exits the spinal canal.
  • Hemilaminectomy – is the removal of only one side of the posterior arch (lamina) of a vertebra.
  • Lamina – bony arch of the vertebrae related to the facet joint that helps to cover & protect the spinal canal. Each spinal vertebra has two laminae.
  • Laminectomy – is the removal of the whole posterior arch (lamina) of a vertebra.
  • Laminotomy – is the removal of a portion of the posterior arch (lamina) of a vertebra.
  • Myelopathy – refers to any neurologic deficit related to the spinal cord, usually caused by compression.
  • Neurogenic claudication (or pseudoclaudication) – symptoms of pain, paresthesia (numbness, tingling, burning sensation) in the back, buttocks and lower limbs and possible muscle tension, limping or leg weakness that worsens with standing/walking and is relieved by rest, sitting or leaning forward. Usually associated with lumbar spinal stenosis.
  • Radiculopathy – a progressive neurologic deficit caused by disc material or boney changes like spurs compressing a spinal nerve root. Symptoms may include pain radiating from the spine, a motor deficit, reflex change or EMG changes.
  • Spinal cord/nerve roots - the cord, surrounded by the vertebrae of the spinal column, connecting the brain to all parts of the body by pairs of nerve roots that extend from the cord and pass through spaces in between the vertebrae.
  • Lumbar spondylolisthesis – a condition where one of the vertebrae slips out of place by moving forward or backward on an adjacent vertebra. Usually occurs at the location of L5-S1.
  • spondylolisthesis – the most common form of spondylolisthesis due to a defect or fracture of the bone that connects the upper and lower facet joints (the pars interarticularis). The disorder may be congenital when the bone fails to form properly or acquired due to a stress fracture and slippage of part of the spinal column. (Some athletes such as gymnasts, football players and weightlifters may suffer from this disorder).
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – abnormal narrowing of the spaces between the vertebrae where the nerve roots pass through from the spinal cord. Nerve impingement may occur in the central canal, in the lateral recess or at the neuroforamen causing pain and problems with walking.
  • Paresthesia – abnormal sensation of burning, prickling, pricking, tickling, tingling of the skin; often described as “pins and needles”.
  • Radicular pain – pain that radiates along a dermatome of a nerve due to inflammation/irritation/compression of the nerve root that connects to the spinal column. Also known as radiculitis, a common form is sciatica.
  • Saddle anesthesia – a loss of feeling in the buttocks, perineum and inner thighs frequently related to cauda equina syndrome.
  • Vertebrae – the individual bones of the spinal column that consist of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions that surround and protect the spinal cord.

Description

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Back pain, with and without radicular symptoms is the one of the most common medical reasons that members seek medical care. The pain can vary from mild to disabling. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts more than three months. Chronic low back pain often improves on its own over time or with the help of non-surgical care.

There are many potential causes for low back pain. Several conditions may cause pinched or compressed nerves in the low back area putting pressure on the spinal cord that may cause tingling, muscle weakness and sudden loss or impairment of bowel and bladder function. Intervertebral disc herniation, spinal stenosis, and degenerative spondylolisthesis with stenosis are the most common conditions that have low back pain and leg symptoms and may require surgery to relieve the compression according to the findings in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT).

Normally, the spinal cord is protected by the back bones (vertebrae) that form the spine, but certain injuries to and disorders of the spine may cause cord compression, affecting its normal function. The spinal cord may be compressed by bone, the collection of blood outside a blood vessel (hematomas), pus (abscesses), tumors (both noncancerous and cancerous), or a herniated/ruptured or malformed disc. These injuries and disorders may also compress the spinal nerve roots that pass through the spaces between the back bones or the bundle of nerves that extend downward from the spinal cord (cauda equina). The spinal cord may be compressed suddenly, causing symptoms in minutes or over a few hours or days, or slowly, causing symptoms that worsen over many weeks or months. (3)

Lumbar spine decompression is a broad definition of surgical procedures performed on the bones in the lower (lumbar) spine to relieve the pinched or compressed spinal cord and/or nerve(s). The goal is to “decompress” the spinal cord and/or nerve root(s) that are causing disabling pain and/or weakness due to damage to the spinal cord (myelopathy).

During a lumbar decompression surgery the surgeon removes portions of the intervertebral disc and/or adjacent bone and tissue in the lower spine to give the nerve root more space. Surgical procedures for spinal decompression include lumbar discectomy, foraminotomy, laminotomy, lumbar laminectomy.

Scope

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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

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A pre-service review is strongly recommended for all indications with submission of clinical information that supports the medical necessity for spinal decompression surgery. Please call the customer service number on the member’s ID card for information about a pre-service review.

See Policy Guidelines for medical necessity documentation information.

If a pre-service review is not obtained, a retrospective medical necessity review will be done. Services that are not medically necessary will not be covered.

Rationale

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This policy was created in December 2013 using the MEDLINE database and guidelines from professional organizations.

Back pain is a common medical problem that may affect 8 out of 10 people during their lifetime. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts more than three months. (1). Age-related disc degeneration, facet joint arthrosis and segmental instability are leading factors causing chronic back pain. Back pain in a large majority of patients, up to approximately 90%, will improve over 2 months with minimal intervention. (2)

The most common symptoms of spinal disorders are regional pain and range of motion limitations. A small subset of patients may experience radiating pain in addition to decreased range of motion and low back discomfort. For the majority of patients pain characteristics depend on activity levels. For example the pain intensity changes with increased physical activity, certain movements or postures and decreases with rest. However, night-time back pain may be present in the absence of serious specific spinal disorders. The precise location and originating point of back pain is often difficult for patients to describe. Interpretation of patients’ symptoms is difficult due to the overlap of referred sensations between adjacent spinal levels and the similarities between dermatomes, myotomes, and sclerotomes. (3) (See Appendix).

Lumbar Discectomy (diskectomy)

Lumbar disc prolapse, protrusion, or extrusion accounts for less than 5% of all low back problems, but are the most common causes of nerve root pain and surgical interventions. The primary motivation for any form of surgery for disc prolapse is to relieve nerve root irritation or compression due to herniated disc material. (4) In order to visualize the disc, vertebrae and surrounding tissue the surgery may be done as an open procedure or microscopically. (See Related Policies.) Decompression surgery is a common treatment for lumbar disc herniation (LDH), though it may be used in the cervical and thoracic spine areas.

In 2011 Kleinstueck published findings from a prospective study that examined how the relative severity of low back pain (LBP) influences the outcome of decompression surgery for LDH based on data from 308 patients. Inclusion criteria were LDH, first-time surgery, maximum 1 affected level, and decompression as the only procedure. Before and 12 months after surgery, patients completed the multidimensional Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI; includes 0–10 leg/buttock pain (LP) and LBP scales); at 12 months, global outcome was rated on a Likert scale and separated into “good” and “poor” groups. In the “good” outcome group, mean baseline LP was 2.8 (SD 3.1) points higher than LBP; in the “poor” group, the corresponding value was 1.1 (SD 2.9) (p<0.001 between groups). Significantly fewer patients with back pain as their “main problem” had a good outcome (69% good) when compared with those who reported leg/buttock pain (84% good) as the main problem (p=0.04). Baseline LBP intensity was a significant predictor of the 12-month COMI score, controlling for age, gender, co-morbidity and of the global outcome (each p<0.05) (higher LBP, worse outcome). The author concludes that patients with more back pain showed significantly worse outcomes after decompression surgery for LDH. According to the study the severity of associated LBP in LDH needs to be considered as it may assist in establishing realistic patient expectations before the surgery. This finding appears to correlate with general clinical findings of the study; however additional studies are needed to quantify the results. (5)

In 2006, Weinstein et al. reported outcomes from the SPORT trial for patients with lumbar disc herniation and radiculopathy. Patients in randomized (n=501) and observational (n=743) studies received either discectomy surgery or non-operative care. (6, 7) Inclusion criteria at enrollment were radicular pain (below the knee for lower lumbar herniation, into the anterior thigh for upper lumbar herniation) and evidence of nerve-root irritation with a positive nerve-root tension sign (straight leg raise–positive between 30° and 70° or positive femoral tension sign) or a corresponding neurologic deficit (asymmetrical depressed reflex, decreased sensation in a dermatomal distribution, or weakness in a myotomal distribution). All the study participants were surgical candidates with spinal imaging (97% magnetic resonance imaging, 3% computed tomography) that confirmed disk herniation (protrusion, extrusion, or sequestered fragment) at a level and side consistent with the clinical symptoms. Patients with multiple disk herniations were included only if one was considered symptomatic (i.e., if surgery was planned for only one herniation). In the randomized group, 50% of patients assigned to discectomy and 30% of patients assigned to non-operative treatment had surgery in the first 3 months. A small advantage for patients assigned to discectomy was found in the Intent-to-treat analysis for the randomized group with no significant differences between the 2 groups for the primary outcome measures. Analysis by treatment-received found significant advantages for discectomy. In the observational cohort, the 528 patients who chose surgery had greater improvement in the primary outcome measures of bodily pain, physical function, and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) compared to the 191 patients who had usual non-operative care. All groups improved over time.

Lumbar Laminotomy

A 2008 quasi-randomized study from Asia compared laminoforaminotomy with laminectomy (n=152). (8) Inclusion criteria for participants was 1) neurogenic claudication as defined by leg pain that limited standing, ambulation, or both; 2) a history of exercise intolerance; 3) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), myelogram, or computed tomography (CT) showing compressive central stenosis (central sagittal diameter less than 10 mm) with or without lateral recess stenosis (lateral recess diameter less than 3 mm); and 4) failure of conservative therapy after an adequate trial (not defined). Exclusion criteria for selecting participants was 1) previous surgery at the same level; 2) isthmic spondylolisthesis; 3) congenital spinal stenosis less than 8 mm caused by short pedicles; 4) dynamic instability; 5) cauda equina syndrome; 6) worker’s compensation claim or other litigation; 7) dying of other disease or otherwise lost to follow-up. An average of 40 months after surgery, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for back and leg pain were low (e.g., less than 1 on VAS) for both groups, and significantly lower for laminotomy. The proportion of patients with good to excellent results (absent or occasional mild back and leg pain and the ability to ambulate more than 1 mile or 20 minutes) was 89% for patients treated with laminotomy and 63% for patients treated with laminectomy. Seven percent of patients treated with laminectomy had poor results at the final interview (range: 27–58 months), compared with none in the laminotomy group. The study limitations are the lack of blinding and the unknown number of patients lost to follow-up.

Lumbar Laminectomy

A 2009 systematic review of surgery for back pain, commissioned by the American Pain Society (APS), was conducted by the Oregon Health Sciences University Evidence-Based Practice Center. Four randomized trials were reviewed that compared surgery to nonsurgical therapy for spinal stenosis, including 2 studies from the multicenter Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) evaluating laminectomy for spinal stenosis (specifically with or without degenerative spondylolisthesis). (9,10) Baseline pain scores averaged 31 to 32 on the Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) bodily pain score of 7 on a 0 to 10 pain scale.

All 4 trials found that initial decompressive surgery (laminectomy) was slightly to moderately better than initial nonsurgical therapy (e.g., average 8 to 18 point difference on the SF-36 and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]). Although differences decreased at longer follow-up, interpretation of results was complicated by the large number of patients in the nonsurgical therapy group who went on to have surgery before the final follow-up. (11) Dural tears were the most common complication of laminectomy, occurring in 7% to 11% of patients.

The investigators concluded that patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis treated with a surgical intervention showed substantial improvement in pain and function during a period of 2 years post operatively than patients treated non-surgically. However, the investigators stated, "Often patients fear they will get worse without surgery, but the patients receiving nonsurgical treatment, on average, showed moderate improvement in all outcomes." According to the authors, there was insufficient evidence to determine the optimal adjunctive surgical methods for laminectomy (i.e., with or without fusion, and instrumented vs. non-instrumented fusion) in patients with or without degenerative spondylolisthesis. Two trials permitted enrollment of patients with greater than 12 weeks of symptoms; however, symptoms were present for more than 6 months in the majority of patients in all trials. (12)

Summary

The decision to perform lumbar decompression surgery involves a holistic review of the patient. Symptoms including the presence of neurological deficits, pain acuity and duration, physical examination and MRI findings, along with the impact on activities of daily living are factors that influence the decision making discussion. Patients who fail to achieve symptom or functional improvement after actively participating in a 6-12 week conservative (non-surgical) treatment program may be candidates for a decompression surgery. The surgeon’s choice of interventional procedure(s) depends on the specific member’s symptoms and imaging findings.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

American Pain Society (APS)

In 2009 the APS published an evidence based clinical practice guidelines for Interventional Therapies, Surgery and Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation for Low Back Pain. (10) Developed by a multidisciplinary panel of experts based on a systematic review of the literature. The recommendations are:

Recommendation 1

In patients with chronic nonradicular low back pain, provocative discography is not recommended as a procedure for diagnosing discogenic low back pain (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). There is insufficient evidence to evaluate validity or utility of diagnostic selective nerve root block, intra-articular facet joint block, medial branch block, or sacroiliac joint block as diagnostic procedures for low back pain with or without radiculopathy.

Recommendation 2

In patients with nonradicular low back pain who do not respond to usual, noninterdisciplinary interventions, it is recommended that clinicians consider intensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation with a cognitive/behavioral emphasis (strong recommendation, high-quality evidence). Chronic back pain is a complex condition that involves biologic, psychological, and environmental factors. For patients with persistent and disabling back pain despite recommended noninterdisciplinary therapies, clinicians should counsel patients about interdisciplinary rehabilitation (defined as an integrated intervention with rehabilitation plus a psychological and/or social/occupational component) as a treatment option.

Recommendation 3

In patients with persistent nonradicular low back pain, facet joint corticosteroid injection, prolotherapy, and intradiscal corticosteroid injection are not recommended (strong recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). There is insufficient evidence to adequately evaluate benefits of local injections, botulinum toxin injection, epidural steroid injection, intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET), therapeutic medial branch block, radiofrequency denervation, sacroiliac joint steroid injection, or intrathecal therapy with opioids or other medications for nonradicular low back pain.

Recommendation 4

In patients with nonradicular low back pain, common degenerative spinal changes, and persistent and disabling symptoms, it is recommended that clinicians discuss risks and benefits of surgery as an option (weak recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). It is recommended that shared decision-making regarding surgery for nonspecific low back pain include a specific discussion about intensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation as a similarly effective option, the small to moderate average benefit from surgery versus noninterdisciplinary nonsurgical therapy, and the fact that the majority of such patients who undergo surgery do not experience an optimal outcome (defined as minimum or no pain, discontinuation of or occasional pain medication use, and return of high-level function).

Recommendation 5

In patients with nonradicular low back pain, common degenerative spinal changes, and persistent and disabling symptoms, there is insufficient evidence to adequately evaluate long-term benefits and harms of vertebral disc replacement (insufficient evidence).

Recommendation 6

In patients with persistent radiculopathy due to herniated lumbar disc, it is recommended that clinicians discuss risks and benefits of epidural steroid injection as an option (weak recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). It is recommended that shared decision-making regarding epidural steroid injection include a specific discussion about inconsistent evidence showing moderate short-term benefits, and lack of long-term benefits. There is insufficient evidence to adequately evaluate benefits and harms of epidural steroid injection for spinal stenosis.

Recommendation 7

In patients with persistent and disabling radiculopathy due to herniated lumbar disc or persistent and disabling

leg pain due to spinal stenosis, it is recommended that clinicians discuss risks and benefits of surgery as an option (strong recommendation, high-quality evidence). It is recommended that shared decision-making regarding surgery include a specific discussion about moderate average benefits, which appear to decrease over time in patients who undergo surgery.

Recommendation 8

In patients with persistent and disabling radicular pain following surgery for herniated disc and no evidence of a persistently compressed nerve root, it is recommended that clinicians discuss risks and benefits of spinal cord stimulation as an option (weak recommendation, moderate-quality evidence). It is recommended that shared decision-making regarding spinal cord stimulation include a discussion about the high rate of complications following spinal cord stimulator placement.

American Academy/Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)

AAOS Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

The educational section of the AAOS website states that nonsurgical treatment should focus on relieving pain and restoring function and may include PT, traction, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation. (13) The society further states as part of their education that:

“Over the long term, 15% of patients will improve with nonsurgical modalities, and 70% will continue to experience neurogenic claudication. Therefore, most patients with LSS will, in time, require surgical intervention for a more definitive treatment. Surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is generally reserved for patients who have poor quality of life due to pain and weakness. Patients may complain of inability to walk for an extended length of time without sitting. This is often the reason that patients consider surgery.
There are two main surgical options to treat lumbar spinal stenosis: laminectomy and spinal fusion. Both options can result in excellent pain relief. The advantages and disadvantages of both should be discussed.”

North American Spine Society (NASS)

NASS Clinical Guidelines – Degenerative Spinal Stenosis

The society states the following treatment recommendations (14):

Grade of Recommendation: I

There is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation for or against the use of physical therapy or exercise as stand-alone treatments for degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis. In the absence of reliable evidence, it is the work group’s opinion that a limited course of active physical therapy is an option for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.

Grade of Recommendation: B

Interlaminar epidural steroid injections are suggested to provide short term (two weeks to six months) symptom relief in patients with neurogenic claudication or radiculopathy. There is, however, conflicting evidence concerning long-term (21.5-24 months) efficacy.

Grade of Recommendation: C

A multiple injection regimen of radiographically-guided transforaminal epidural steroid injection or caudal injections is suggested to produce medium-term (3-36 months) relief of pain in patients with radiculopathy or neurogenic intermittent claudication (NIC) from lumbar spinal stenosis.

Grade of Recommendation: B

Decompressive surgery is suggested to improve outcomes in patients with moderate to severe symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.

Grade of Recommendation: C

Medical/interventional treatment may be considered for patients with moderate symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.

NASS Clinical Guidelines – Lumbar spondylolisthesis

The society states the following treatment recommendations (15):

Work Group Consensus Statement

“Medical/interventional treatment for degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis, when the radicular symptoms of stenosis predominate, most logically should be similar to treatment for symptomatic degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis”.

Grade of Recommendation: I

Direct surgical decompression is recommended for treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis associated with low grade degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis whose symptoms have been recalcitrant to a trial of medical/interventional treatment.

Grade of Recommendation: I

Indirect surgical decompression is recommended for treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis associated with low grade degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis whose symptoms have been recalcitrant to a trial of medical/interventional treatment.

Grade of Recommendation: B

Surgical decompression with fusion is recommended for the treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis and degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis to improve clinical outcomes compared with decompression alone.

Grade of Recommendation: B

The addition of instrumentation is recommended to improve fusion rates in patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis and degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis.

Grade of Recommendation: B

The addition of instrumentation is not recommended to improve clinical outcomes for the treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis and degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis.

Grade of Recommendation: I

Reduction with fusion and internal fixation of patients with low grade degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis is not recommended to improve clinical outcomes.

Grade of Recommendation: C

Decompression and fusion is recommended as a means to provide satisfactory long-term (4 years +) results for the treatment of patients with symptomatic spinal stenosis and degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis.

NASS grades of recommendation for summaries or reviews of studies:

A=Good evidence (Level I studies with consistent findings) for or against recommending intervention.

B=Fair evidence (Level II or III studies with consistent findings) for or against recommending intervention.

C=Poor quality evidence (Level IV or V studies) for or against recommending intervention.

I=Insufficient or conflicting evidence not allowing a recommendation for or against intervention.

Clinical Trials

A search of the online site ClinicalTrials.gov found the following trials

  • NCT00000409 Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) – Degenerative Spondylolisthesis With Spinal Stenosis. This study tests the effectiveness of different treatments for the three most commonly diagnosed conditions of the lower backbone (lumbar spine). The purpose is to learn which of two commonly prescribed treatments (surgery and nonsurgical therapy) works better for specific types of low back pain. The enrollment is 304 participants reported. The estimated completion date is April 2014. A list of SPORT outcomes to date can be found at this URL address: http://www.dartmouth.edu/sport-trial/publications.htm.
  • NCT00000410 Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) – Intervertebral Disc Herniation. In this part of the study, people with lumbar intervertebral disc herniation (damage to the tissue between the bones of the lower spine, or backbone) will receive either discectomy (surgical removal of herniated disc material) or non-surgical treatment. The reported enrollment is 501 participants. The estimated completion date is April 2014

Medicare National Coverage

There is no national coverage determination (NCD) was found at the time this policy was developed.

References

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  1. Medline Plus (A service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health). A Description of Back Pain from back pain information page. Available at URL address: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/backpain.htm. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  2. Kwon BK, Vaccaro AR, Grauer JN, Beiner J. Indications, techniques, and outcomes of posterior surgery for chronic low back pain. Orthop Clin North Am. 2003; 34(2):297-308.
  3. Rubin M. The Merck Manual, Overview of spinal cord disorders. Last modified March 2013. The Merck Manual Home Edition. Available at URL address: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain_spinal_cord_and_nerve_disorders/spinal_cord_disorders/overview_of_spinal_cord_disorders.html. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  4. Manchikanti L, Derby R, Benyamin R, et al. A systematic review of mechanical lumbar disc decompression with nucleoplasty. Pain Physician. 2009; 12:561-572.
  5. Kleinstueck FS, Fekete T, et al. The outcome of decompression surgery for lumbar herniated disc is influenced by the level of concomitant preoperative low back pain. Eur Spine J. 2011; 1166-1173. Available at URL address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3176694/. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  6. Weinstein JN, Tosteson TD, Lurie JD et al. Surgical vs nonoperative treatment for lumbar disk herniation: the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT): a randomized trial. JAMA 2006; 296(20):2441-50.
  7. Weinstein JN, Lurie JD, Tosteson TD et al. Surgical vs. nonoperative treatment for lumbar disk herniation: the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) observational cohort. JAMA 2006; 296(20):2451-9.
  8. Fu YS, Zeng BF, Xu JG. Long-term outcomes of two different decompressive techniques for lumbar spinal stenosis. Spine. 2008; 33(5):514-8.
  9. Chou R, Baisden J, Carragee EJ et al. Surgery for low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society Clinical Practice Guideline. Spine. 2009; 34(10):1094-109.
  10. Chou R, Loeser JD, Owens DK et al. Interventional therapies, surgery, and interdisciplinary rehabilitation for low back pain: an evidence-based clinical practice guideline from the American Pain Society. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2009; 34(10):1066-77. Available at URL address: http://www.americanpainsociety.org/resources/content/clinical-practical-guidelines.html . Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  11. Weinstein JN, Tosteson TD, Lurie JD et al. Surgical versus nonsurgical therapy for lumbar spinal stenosis. N Engl J Med 2008; 358(8):794-810.
  12. Weinstein JN, Lurie JD, Tosteson TD et al. Surgical versus nonsurgical treatment for lumbar degenerative spondylolisthesis. N Engl J Med 2007; 356(22):2257-70.
  13. Shamie NA. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Lumbar stenosis: The growing epidemic. AAOS Now. May 2011. Available at URL address: http://www.aaos.org/news/aaosnow/may11/clinical10.asp . Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  14. Kreiner DS, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis. Evidence-based clinical guidelines for multidisciplinary spine care. North American Spine Society. 2012. Available at URL address: http://www.spine.org/Pages/PracticePolicy/ClinicalCare/ClinicalGuidlines/Default.aspx. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  15. Watters WC, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis. Evidence-based clinical guidelines for multidisciplinary spine care. North American Spine Society. 2011. Available at URL address: http://www.spine.org/Pages/PracticePolicy/ClinicalCare/ClinicalGuidlines/Default.aspx. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  16. Kishner S, et al. Dermatomes Anatomy. Medscape reference, 2013. Web. Available at URL address: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1878388-overview#showall. Last accessed February 10, 2014.

Additional resources

  1. Chou R, Qaseem A, Snow V, Casey D, Cross JT Jr., Shekelle P et al. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: a joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Ann Intern Med. 2007; 147:478-491. Available at URL address: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=736814. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  2. Deyo RA, Mirza SK, Martin BI. Back pain prevalence and visit rates: estimates from U.S. national surveys, 2002. Spine. 2006;31:2724-2727. Available at URL address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17077742/ . Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  3. El Abd O. Low back strain or sprain. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2008: chap 44.
  4. Hegmann KT, ed. Low back disorders. Occupational medicine practice guidelines. Evaluation and management of common health problems and functional recovery in workers. 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village (IL): American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM); 2011:333-796. Available at AHRQ URL: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=38438. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  5. Kreiner DS, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation and radiculopathy. Evidence-based clinical guidelines for multidisciplinary spine care. North American Spine Society. 2008. Available at URL address: http://www.spine.org/Pages/PracticePolicy/ClinicalCare/ClinicalGuidlines/Default.aspx. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  6. Martin BI, Deyo RA, Mirza SK, et al. Expenditures and health status among adults with back and neck problems. JAMA. 2008; 299:656-664. Available at URL address: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.299.6.656. Last accessed February 10, 2014.
  7. MCG™ - 17th Edition (formerly Milliman Care Guidelines®): Inpatient and Surgical Care, Lumbar Diskectomy, Foraminotomy or Laminotomy (ORG: S-810) and Lumbar Laminectomy (ORG: S-830). Available at URL address: http://careweb.careguidelines.com/ed17. Last accessed February 10, 2014.

Coding

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Codes

Number

Description

CPT

62287

Decompression procedure, percutaneous, of nucleus pulposus of intervertebral disc, any method, single or multiple levels, lumbar (e.g., manual or automated percutaneous discectomy, percutaneous laser discectomy)

 

63005

Laminectomy with exploration and/or decompression of spinal cord and/or cauda equina, without facetectomy, foraminotomy or discectomy (e.g., spinal stenosis), 1 or 2 vertebral segments; lumbar, except for spondylolisthesis

 

63012

Laminectomy with removal of abnormal facets and/or pars inter-articularis with decompression of cauda equina and nerve roots for spondylolisthesis, lumbar (Gill type procedure)

 

63017

Laminectomy with exploration and/or decompression of spinal cord and/or cauda equina, without facetectomy, foraminotomy or discectomy (e.g., spinal stenosis), more than 2 vertebral segments; lumbar

 

63030

Laminotomy (hemilaminectomy), with decompression of nerve root(s), including partial facetectomy, foraminotomy and/or excision of herniated intervertebral disc; 1 interspace, lumbar

 

63035

Laminotomy (hemilaminectomy), with decompression of nerve root(s), including partial facetectomy, foraminotomy and/or excision of herniated intervertebral disc; each additional interspace, cervical or lumbar (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

 

63042

Laminotomy (hemilaminectomy), with decompression of nerve root(s), including partial facetectomy, foraminotomy and/or excision of herniated intervertebral disc, reexploration, single interspace; lumbar

 

63044

Laminotomy (hemilaminectomy), with decompression of nerve root(s), including partial facetectomy, foraminotomy and/or excision of herniated intervertebral disc, reexploration, single interspace; each additional lumbar interspace (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

 

63047

Laminectomy, facetectomy and foraminotomy (unilateral or bilateral with decompression of spinal cord, cauda equina and/or nerve root[s], [e.g., spinal or lateral recess stenosis]), single vertebral segment; lumbar

 

63048

Laminectomy, facetectomy and foraminotomy (unilateral or bilateral with decompression of spinal cord, cauda equina and/or nerve root[s], [e.g., spinal or lateral recess stenosis]), single vertebral segment; each additional segment, cervical, thoracic, or lumbar (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

 

63056

Transpedicular approach with decompression of spinal cord, equina and/or nerve root(s) (e.g., herniated intervertebral disc), single segment; lumbar (including transfacet, or lateral extraforaminal approach) (e.g., far lateral herniated intervertebral disc)

 

63057

Transpedicular approach with decompression of spinal cord, equina and/or nerve root(s) (e.g., herniated intervertebral disc), single segment; each additional segment, thoracic or lumbar (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

 

63185

Laminectomy with rhizotomy; 1 or 2 segments

 

63190

Laminectomy with rhizotomy; more than 2 segments

 

63191

Laminectomy with section of spinal accessory nerve

 

63200

Laminectomy, with release of tethered spinal cord, lumbar

 

63252

Laminectomy for excision or occlusion of arteriovenous malformation of spinal cord; thoracolumbar

 

63267

Laminectomy for excision or evacuation of intraspinal lesion other than neoplasm, extradural; lumbar

 

63272

Laminectomy for excision of intraspinal lesion other than neoplasm, intradural; lumbar

 

63277

Laminectomy for biopsy/excision of intraspinal neoplasm; extradural, lumbar

 

63282

Laminectomy for biopsy/excision of intraspinal neoplasm; intradural, extramedullary, lumbar

 

63287

Laminectomy for biopsy/excision of intraspinal neoplasm; intradural, intramedullary, thoracolumbar

 

63290

Laminectomy for biopsy/excision of intraspinal neoplasm; combined extradural-intradural lesion, any level

ICD-9 Procedure

84.52

Insertion of recombinant bone morphogenetic protein

 

03.09

Other exploration and decompression of spinal canal

 

03.4

Excision or destruction of lesion of spinal cord or spinal meninges

 

03.6

Lysis of adhesions of spinal cord and nerve roots

 

80.50

Excision or destruction of intervertebral disc, unspecified

 

80.51

Excision of intervertebral disc

ICD-9 Diagnosis

170.2

Malignant neoplasm of vertebral column, excluding sacrum and coccyx

 

198.3

Secondary malignant neoplasm of brain and spinal cord

 

198.4

Secondary malignant neoplasm of other parts of nervous system

 

225.3

Benign neoplasm of spinal cord

 

225.4

Benign neoplasm of spinal meninges

 

237.5

Neoplasm of uncertain behavior of brain and spinal cord

 

237.6

Neoplasm of uncertain behavior of meninges

 

324.1

Intraspinal abscess

 

344.60

Cauda equina syndrome without mention of neurogenic bladder

 

344.61

Cauda equina syndrome with neurogenic bladder

 

564.81

Neurogenic bowel

 

720.0

Ankylosing spondylitis

 

721.3

Lumbosacral spondylosis without myelopathy

 

721.3

Lumbosacral spondylosis without myelopathy

 

721.42

Spondylosis with myelopathy, lumbar region

 

722.10

Displacement of lumbar intervertebral disc without myelopathy

 

722.52

Degeneration of lumbar or lumbosacral intervertebral disc

 

722.73

Intervertebral disc disorder with myelopathy, lumbar region

 

722.83

Postlaminectomy syndrome of lumbar region

 

722.93

Other and unspecified disc disorder of lumbar region

 

724.02

Spinal stenosis, lumbar region, without neurogenic claudication

 

724.03

Spinal stenosis, lumbar region, with neurogenic claudication

 

724.4

Thoracic or lumbosacral neuritis or radiculitis, unspecified

 

738.4

Acquired spondylolisthesis

 

756.11

Congenital spondylolysis, lumbosacral region

 

756.12

Spondylolisthesis, congenital

 

805.4

Closed fracture of lumbar vertebra without mention of spinal cord injury

 

805.5

Open fracture of lumbar vertebra without mention of spinal cord injury

 

806.4

Closed fracture of lumbar spine with spinal cord injury

 

806.5

Open fracture of lumbar spine with spinal cord injury

ICD-10-PCS
(effective 10/01/14)

   

Type of Service

Surgery

 

Place of Service

Inpatient

Outpatient

 

Appendix

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Figure 1. Lumbosacral dermatome innervations (16)

Labels indicate the innervation of each lumbosacral dermatome. L=lumbar, S=sacral

L1,2,3,4 – front and inner surfaces of legs

L4 – inner (medial) side of the great toe

L4,5, S1 – foot

L5, S1,S2 – back and outer surfaces of legs, buttocks

S1 – outer (lateral) margin of foot and little toe

S2,3,4 – perineum (urogenital and anal areas of pelvis)

Fig. 1

 

History

 

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Date

Reason

01/13/14

New policy. Lumbar decompression surgery may be considered medically necessary when applicable criteria are met. Effective May 18, 2014 with 90-day hold for provider notification.

01/14/14

Replace policy. Policy criteria revised for lumbar discectomy MRI sub-bullet to add “nerve root compression that corresponds to symptoms and physical examination findings or there is definitive neurological localization by other means (e.g., selective nerve root injections)” and the neurological deficits sub-bullet add “to include alternative signs of lumbar root irritation (e.g. positive leg raising test)”. ICD-10 CM and ICD-10 PCS codes removed. Policy statements changed as noted.

02/10/14

Replace policy. Policy statement revised: deleted cauda equina syndrome (CES) as an indication since the rapid progression of symptoms includes CES, added lumbar spine CT myelogram to diagnostic imaging criteria, minor edits for readability. Related policies list revised. In the Policy Guidelines, added information about pre-service requests added selective nerve root injections to the diagnostic test reports, expanded definition of CES. Appendix Figure 1 citation reference 16 added, second graphic removed. Policy statements changed as noted.

02/27/14

Update Related Policies. Add 8.03.501.


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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