Thursday, January 30, 2020

CPT 62287, S2348 -Laser energy (laser discectomy) and radiofrequency (RF) coblation

Coding Code Description CPT

62287 Decompression procedure, percutaneous, of nucleus pulposus of intervertebral disc, any method, single or multiple levels, lumbar (eg, manual or automated percutaneous discectomy, percutaneous laser discectomy)


S2348 Decompression procedure, percutaneous, of nucleus pulposus of intervertebral disc, using radiofrequency energy, single or multiple levels, lumbar

Between each bone of the spine is a round, flat disc. The discs act as cushions between the bones of the spine and help hold them together, while also providing stability and allowing a wide range of motion. Should the discs break down, pain and nerve problems may result. Typical treatment includes physical therapy and/or pain medications. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed. In recent years, using heat from either lasers or radio waves to remove or destroy parts of the discs has been studied as a way to try to treat pain. These techniques are investigational (unproven). More studies are needed to find out if they are safe and effective.

Note: The Introduction section is for your general knowledge and is not to be taken as policy coverage criteria. The rest of the policy uses specific words and concepts familiar to medical professionals. It is intended for providers. A provider can be a person, such as a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or dentist. A provider also can be a place where medical care is given, like a hospital, clinic, or lab. This policy informs them about when a service may be covered.

Policy Coverage Criteria Service Investigational Laser discectomy and radiofrequency coblation Laser discectomy and radiofrequency coblation (disc nucleoplasty) are considered investigational as techniques of disc decompression and treatment of associated pain.


Laser energy (laser discectomy) and radiofrequency (RF) coblation (nucleoplasty) are being evaluated for decompression of the intervertebral disc. For laser discectomy under fluoroscopic guidance, a needle or catheter is inserted into the disc nucleus, and a laser beam is directed through it to vaporize tissue. For disc nucleoplasty, bipolar RF energy is directed into the disc to ablate tissue. These minimally invasive procedures are being evaluated for the treatment of discogenic back pain.


Discogenic low back pain is a common, multifactorial pain syndrome that involves low back pain without radicular symptom findings, in conjunction with radiologically confirmed degenerative disc disease.


Typical treatment includes conservative therapy with physical therapy and medication management, with potential for surgical decompression in more severe cases.

A variety of minimally invasive techniques have been investigated as treatment of low back pain related to disc disease. Techniques can be broadly divided into those designed to remove or ablate disc material, and thus decompress the disc, and those designed to alter the biomechanics of the disc annulus. The former category includes chymopapain injection, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laser discectomy, and most recently, disc decompression using radiofrequency (RF) energy, referred to as a disc nucleoplasty. Techniques that alter the biomechanics of the disc (disc annulus) include a variety of intradiscal electrothermal procedures, which are discussed in another policy (see Related Medical Policies).

A variety of different lasers have been investigated for laser discectomy, including YAG, KTP, holmium, argon, and carbon dioxide lasers. Due to differences in absorption, the energy requirements and the rate of application differ among the lasers. In addition, it is unknown how much disc material must be removed to achieve decompression. Therefore, protocols vary according to the length of treatment, but typically the laser is activated for brief periods only.

RF coblation uses bipolar low-frequency energy in an electrical conductive fluid (eg, saline) to generate a high-density plasma field around the energy source. This creates a low-temperature field of ionizing particles that break organic bonds within the target tissue. Coblation technology is used in a variety of surgical procedures, particularly related to otolaryngology. The disc nucleoplasty procedure is accomplished with a probe mounted with a RF coblation source. The proposed advantage of coblation is that the procedure provides for controlled and highly localized ablation, resulting in minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

Summary of Evidence

For individuals with discogenic back pain or radiculopathy who receive laser discectomy, the evidence includes systematic reviews of observational studies. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, and treatment-related morbidity. While numerous case series and uncontrolled studies have reported improvements in pain levels and functioning following laser discectomy, the lack of well-designed and well-conducted controlled trials limits interpretation of reported data. The evidence is insufficient to determine the effect of the technology on health outcomes.

For individuals with discogenic back pain or radiculopathy who receive disc nucleoplasty with radiofrequency coblation, the evidence includes randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, and treatmentrelated morbidity. For nucleoplasty, there are 2 RCTs in addition to several uncontrolled studies.

These RCTs are limited by the lack of blinding, an inadequate control condition in one, and inadequate data reporting in the second. The available evidence is insufficient to permit conclusions concerning the effect of these procedures on health outcomes due to multiple confounding factors that may bias results. High-quality randomized trials with adequate followup (at least 1 year), which control for selection bias, the placebo effect, and variability in the natural history of low back pain, are needed. The evidence is insufficient to determine the effect of the technology on health outcomes.  Subtalar Arthroereisis

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