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Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) with densitometry is a technique in which vertebral fractures are assessed at the same time as bone mineral density (BMD), by use of dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The addition of vertebral fractures to BMD may provide additional useful information on an individual’s risk of fracture.
Vertebral fractures are highly prevalent in the elderly population, and epidemiologic studies have found that these fractures are associated with an increased risk of future spine or hip fractures independent of bone mineral density. Only 20%–30% of vertebral fractures are recognized clinically; the rest are discovered incidentally on lateral spine radiographs. Lateral spine radiographs have not been recommended as a component of risk assessment for osteoporosis because of the cost, radiation exposure, and the fact that the radiograph would require a separate procedure in addition to the bone mineral density study using DEXA. However, several densitometers with specialized software are able to perform VFA in conjunction with DEXA. The lateral spine scan is performed by using a rotating arm; depending on the densitometer used, the patient can either stay in the supine position after the bone density study or is required to move onto the left decubitus position.
Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) differs from radiological detection of fractures, as VFA uses a lower radiation exposure and can detect only fractures, while traditional radiograph images can detect other bone and soft tissue abnormalities in addition to spinal fractures. Manufacturers have also referred to this procedure as instant vertebral assessment, radiographic vertebral assessment, dual-energy vertebral assessment, or lateral vertebral assessment.
For both lateral spine radiographs and images with densitometry, vertebral fractures are assessed visually. While a number of grading systems have been proposed, the semiquantitative system of Genant is commonly used. This system grades the deformities from I to III, with grade I (mild) representing a 20%–24% reduction in vertebral height, grade II (moderate) representing a 25% to 39% reduction in height, and grade III (severe) representing a 40% or greater reduction in height. The location of the deformity within the vertebrae may also be noted. For example, if only the mid-height of the vertebrae is affected, the deformity is defined as an endplate deformity; if both the anterior and mid-heights are deformed, it is a wedge deformity; and if the entire vertebrae is deformed, it is classed as a crush deformity. A vertebral deformity of at least 20% loss in height is typically considered a fracture. Accurate interpretation of both lateral spine radiographs and VFA imaging is dependent on radiological training. Thus, device location and availability of appropriately trained personnel may influence diagnostic accuracy.
To perform vertebral fracture assessment with a densitometer, additional software is needed, and it must have 510(k) marketing clearance from the FDA. Products that have received FDA clearance include Lunar Dual Energy Vertebral Assessment (DVATM) (General Electric Medical Systems) and Hologic Instant Vertebral AssessmentTM (IVATM) software.
See separate medical policy for Bone Mineral Density Studies.
Screening for vertebral fractures using dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA of DXA) is considered investigational.
Federal Employee Program (FEP) may dictate that all FDA-approved devices, drugs or biologics may not be considered investigational and thus these devices may be assessed only on the basis of their medical necessity.
Investigative service is defined as the use of any treatment procedure, facility, equipment, drug, device, or supply not yet recognized by certifying boards and/or approving or licensing agencies or published peer review criteria as standard, effective medical practice for the treatment of the condition being treated and as such therefore is not considered medically necessary.
The coverage guidelines outlined in the Medical Policy Manual should not be used in lieu of the Member's specific benefit plan language.
3/31/2005: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)
6/6/2005: Code Reference section completed
3/16/2006: Policy reviewed, no changes
1/4/2007: Code reference section updated per the 2007 CPT/HCPCS revisions
5/15/2007: Policy reviewed, description updated. Morphometric absorptiometry changed to dual x-ray absorptiometry in policy statement. Policy name changed to "Vertebral Fracture Assessment with Densitometry." Previously named "Screening for Vertebral Fracture with Dual X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)."
04/19/2011: Policy description and statement unchanged. Added FEP verbiage to the Policy Exceptions section. Removed deleted CPT code 76077 from the Code Reference section.
03/02/2012: Policy reviewed; no changes.
04/03/2013: Policy reviewed; no changes.
03/21/2014: Policy reviewed; no changes.
06/17/2014: Policy reviewed; description updated. Policy statement unchanged.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Policy # 6.01.44
This may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.