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DESCRIPTIONInterspinous fixation (fusion) devices are being developed to aid in the stabilization of the spine. They are being evaluated as alternatives to pedicle screw and rod constructs in combination with interbody fusion. Interspinous fixation devices are also being evaluated for stand-alone use in patients with spinal stenosis.
Contemporary models of interspinous fixation devices have evolved from spinous process wiring with bone blocks and early device designs (e.g., Wilson plate, Meurig-Williams system, Daab plate). The newer devices range from paired plates with teeth to U-shaped devices with wings that are attached to the spinous process. They are intended to be an alternative to pedicle screw and rod constructs to aid in the stabilization of the spine with interbody fusion. Interspinous fixation devices are placed under direct visualization, while screw and rod systems may be placed either under direct visualization or percutaneously. Use of an interspinous fixation device in combination with a unilateral pedicle screw system has also been proposed. Interspinous fixation devices are not intended for stand-alone use.
Interspinous fixation (fusion) devices contrast with interspinous distraction devices (spacers), which are used alone for decompression and are typically not fixed to the spinous process. In addition, whereas interspinous distraction devices may use dynamic stabilization, interspinous fixation devices are rigid. However, the fixation devices might also be used to distract the spinous processes and decrease lordosis. Thus, the fixation devices might be used off-label without interbody fusion as decompression (distraction) devices in patients with spinal stenosis. If fixation devices are used alone as a spacer, there is a risk of spinous process fracture.
For use in combination with fusion, it is proposed that interspinous fixation systems are less invasive and present fewer risks than pedicle or facet screws. However, while biomechanical studies indicate that interspinous fixation devices may be similar to pedicle screw-rod constructs in limiting the range of flexion-extension, they may be less effective than bilateral pedicle screw-rod fixation for limiting axial rotation and lateral bending. There is a potential for a negative impact on the interbody cage and bone graft due to focal kyphosis resulting from the interspinous device.
There is also a potential for spinous process fracture. Given these uncertainties, studies are needed that compare health outcomes between interspinous fixation devices and pedicle screw-rod fixation.
The following interspinous fixation devices have received clearance to market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This may not be an exhaustive list.
Interspinous fixation devices are intended to be used as an adjunct to interbody fusion. For example, the indication for use of the coflex-F implant “is a posterior, non-pedicle supplemental fixation device intended for use with an interbody cage as an adjunct to fusion at a single level in the lumbar spine (L1-S1). It is intended for attachment to the spinous processes for the purpose of achieving stabilization to promote fusion in patients with degenerative disc disease – defined as back pain of discogenic origin with degeneration of the disc confirmed by history and radiographic studies – with up to Grade 1 spondylolisthesis.” Use of an interspinous fixation device for a stand-alone procedure would be considered off-label.
A related medical policy is Interspinous Distraction Devices (Spacers).
POLICYInterspinous fixation (fusion) devices are considered investigational for any indication, including but not limited to use:
POLICY EXCEPTIONSFederal 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.
POLICY GUIDELINESClinical input has identified potential exceptions where the devices might be considered medically necessary, such as patients with small pedicles where pedicle screws could not be safely placed.
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.
POLICY HISTORY03/21/2013: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee.
11/15/2013: Policy reviewed; no changes.
SOURCE(S)Blue Cross Blue Shield Association policy # 7.01.138
CODE REFERENCEThis may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.