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Chondral and osteochondral grafts are used in repair of full-thickness chondral defects involving the joint. In the case of osteochondral autografts, one or more small osteochondral plugs are harvested from non-weight-bearing sites in the knee and press fit into a prepared site in the lesion. Osteochondral allografts are typically used for larger lesions to reduce donor site morbidity. Autologous or allogeneic minced cartilage is also being evaluated as a treatment of articular cartilage lesions.
Focal chondral defects of the knee, either due to trauma or other conditions such as osteochondritis dissecans, often fail to heal on their own and may be associated with pain, loss of function, disability, and the long-term complication of osteoarthritis. The ideal resurfacing technique would eliminate symptoms, restore normal biomechanics of the knee joint, and prevent the long-term emergence of osteoarthritis and the necessity for total knee arthroplasty. Various methods of cartilage resurfacing have been investigated including marrow-stimulation techniques such as subchondral drilling, microfracture, and abrasion arthroplasty, all of which are considered standard therapies and all of which attempt to restore the articular surface by inducing the growth of fibrocartilage into the chondral defect. However, fibrocartilage does not share the same biomechanical properties as hyaline cartilage, and thus various different strategies for chondral resurfacing with hyaline cartilage have been investigated.
Autologous chondrocyte transplant involves the harvesting of normal chondrocytes from normal non-weight-bearing articular surfaces, which are then cultured and expanded in vitro and then transplanted back into the patient. Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation and Other Cell-based Treatments of Focal Articular Cartilage Lesions is considered in a separate policy.
Osteochondral grafts have also been investigated. Both fresh and cryopreserved allogenic osteochondral grafts have been used with some success, although cryopreservation decreases the viability of cartilage cells, and fresh allografts may be difficult to obtain and create concerns regarding infectious diseases. For these reasons, there has been ongoing interest in autologous osteochondral grafts as an option to increase the survival rate of the grafted cartilage and to eliminate the risk of disease transmission. Autologous grafts have been limited by the small number of donor sites; thus allografts are typically used for larger lesions. In an effort to extend the amount of the available donor tissue, investigators have used multiple, small osteochondral cores harvested from various non- weightbearing sites in the knee, for treatment of full-thickness chondral defects. Several systems are available for performing this procedure, the Mosaicplasty System (Smith and Nephew), the Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System (OATS, Arthrex, Inc.), and the COR and COR2 systems (DePuy-Mitek). Although mosaicplasty and OATS may use different instrumentation, the underlying principle is similar; i.e., the use of multiple osteochondral cores harvested from a non-weight-bearing region of the femoral condyle and autografted into the chondral defect. These terms have been used interchangeably to describe the procedure.
Preparation of the chondral lesion involves debridement and preparation of recipient tunnels. Multiple individual osteochondral cores are harvested from the donor site, typically from a peripheral non-weight-bearing area of the femoral condyle. Donor plugs range from 6 mm to 10 mm in diameter. The grafts are press fit into the lesion in a mosaic-like fashion into the same-sized tunnels. The resultant surface consists of transplanted hyaline articular cartilage and fibrocartilage, which is thought to provide “grouting” between the individual autografts. Mosaicplasty may be performed with either an open approach or arthroscopically. Osteochondral autografting has also been investigated as a treatment of unstable osteochondritis dissecans lesions using multiple dowel grafts to secure the fragment. While osteochondral autografting is primarily performed on the femoral condyles of the knee, osteochondral grafts have also been used to repair chondral defects of the patella, tibia, and ankle. With osteochondral autografting, the harvesting and transplantation can be performed during the same surgical procedure. Technical limitations of osteochondral autografting are difficulty in restoring concave or convex articular surfaces, incongruity of articular surfaces that can alter joint contact pressures, short-term fixation strength and load-bearing capacity, donor site morbidity, and lack of peripheral integration with peripheral chondrocyte death associated with graft harvesting and insertion.
Recently, a minimally processed osteochondral allograft (Chondrofix®, Zimmer) has become available for use. Chondrofix® is composed of decellularized hyaline cartilage and cancellous bone and can be used “off the shelf” with precut cylinders (7-15 mm). Multiple cylinders may be used to fill a larger defect in a manner similar to OATS or mosaicplasty.
Filling defects with minced articular cartilage (autologous or allogeneic), is another single-stage procedure that is being investigated for cartilage repair. The Cartilage Autograft Implantation System (CAIS, Johnson and Johnson, phase 3 trial) harvests cartilage and disperses chondrocytes on a scaffold in a single-stage treatment. BioCartilage® (Arthrex) consists of a micronized allogeneic cartilage matrix that is intended to provide a scaffold for microfracture. DeNovo NT Graft (Natural Tissue Graft) is produced by ISTO Technologies with exclusive distribution rights by Zimmer. DeNovo NT consists of manually minced cartilage tissue pieces obtained from juvenile allograft donor joints. The tissue fragments are mixed intraoperatively with fibrin glue before implantation in the prepared lesion. It is thought that mincing the tissue helps both with cell migration from the extracellular matrix and with fixation. As there is no use of chemicals and minimal manipulation, the allograft tissue does not require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for marketing. DeNovo® ET Live Chondral Engineered Tissue Graft (Neocartilage) is marketed by ISTO Technologies outside of the U.S. DeNovo® ET graft uses juvenile allogeneic cartilage cells engineered by ISTO Technologies. FDA approved ISTO’s Investigational New Drug application for Neocartilage in 2006, which allowed them to pursue phase III clinical trials of the product in humans.
Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is another method of cartilage repair involving the harvesting of normal chondrocytes from normal non-weight-bearing articular surfaces, which are then cultured and expanded in vitro and implanted back into the chondral defect. ACI is considered separately in the Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation and Other Cell-based Treatments of Focal Articular Cartilage Lesions medical policy.
Also, see the Allografts and Collagen Meniscus Implants medical policy.
POLICYOsteochondral allografting may be considered medically necessary as a technique to repair large (e.g., 10 cm squared) full thickness chondral defects of the knee caused by acute or repetitive trauma.
Osteochondral allografting for all other joints is considered investigational.
Osteochodral autografting, using 1 or more cores of osteochondral tissue, may be considered medically necessary for the treatment of symptomatic full thickness cartilage defects of the knee caused by acute or repetitive trauma, in patients who have had an inadequate response to a prior surgical procedure, when all of the following have been met:
Osteochondral autografting for all other joints, including talar, and any indications other than those listed above, is considered investigational.
Treatment of focal articular cartilage lesions with autologous minced cartilage is considered investigational.
Treatment of focal articular cartilage lesions with allogeneic minced cartilage is considered investigational.
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 GUIDELINESIf debridement is the only prior surgical treatment, consideration should be given to marrow-stimulating techniques before osteochondral grafting is performed.
Severe obesity, e.g., body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 kg/m2, may affect outcomes due to the increased stress on weight-bearing surfaces of the joint.
Misalignment and instability of the joint are contraindications. Therefore additional procedures, such as repair of ligaments or tendons or creation of an osteotomy for realignment of the joint, may be performed at the same time. In addition, meniscal allograft transplantation may be performed in combination, either concurrently or sequentially, with osteochondral allografting or osteochondral autografting.
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 HISTORY2/2001: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC); Mosaicplasty considered investigational
5/2001: Reviewed by MPAC; Mosaicplasty separated from ACT policy, investigational status maintained
8/2001: Reviewed by MPAC; investigational status maintained; no policy exceptions
2/8/2002: Investigational definition added
2/19/2002: 2002 CPT Category III codes added, CPT 0012T, 0013T added
5/2/2002: Type of Service and Place of Service deleted
3/25/2004: Reviewed by MPAC, policy title "Mosaicplasty" renamed "Osteochondral Autografts and Allografts in the Treatment of Focal Articular Cartilage Lesions", Mosaicplasty remains investigational, OATS procedure considered investigational, Sources updated
5/19/2004: Code Reference section reviewed, no changes
3/23/2005: Code Reference section updated, CPT code 0012T deletion date of 12/31/2004 and Note: "See CPT code 29866" added, CPT code 0013T deletion date of 12/31/2004 and Note: "See CPT code 27415 and 29867" added, CPT code 27415, 29866, 29867 with effective date of 1/1/2005 added, ICD-9 procedure code 81.47 added
3/9/2006: Coding updated. CPT-4/HCPCS 2006 revisions added to policy
12/19/2007: Coding updated per 2008 CPT/HCPCS revisions
12/5/2008: Policy reviewed, policy statement changed and medically necessary indications included in new policy statement.
12/22/2008: Code Reference section updated; CPT codes 27415-27416, 29866-29867 and ICD-9 procedure code 81.47 moved to covered.
06/03/2010: Policy description and guidelines updated regarding treatment approaches. Policy statement unchanged. FEP verbiage added to the Policy Exceptions section. Deleted outdated references from the Sources section. Added CPT code 28446.
08/23/2011: Deleted "Absence of meniscal pathology" from the osteochondral autografting coverage criteria. Separated the investigational policy statement for autograft and allograft.
07/17/2012: Policy reviewed; no changes.
10/25/2013: Added the following investigational policy statements: Treatment of focal articular cartilage lesions with autologous minced cartilage is considered investigational. Treatment of focal articular cartilage lesions with allogeneic minced cartilage is considered investigational.
10/30/2014: Policy title changed from "Osteochondral Autografts and Allografts in the Treatment of Focal Articular Cartilage Lesions" to "Autografts and Allografts in the Treatment of Focal Articular Cartilage Lesions" to reflect the scope of the policy. Policy description updated regarding available grafts. Osteochondral autografting for patellar lesions changed from investigational to medically necessary. Policy guidelines updated regarding meniscal allograft transplantation.
SOURCE(S)Blue Cross Blue Shield Association policy # 7.01.78
CODE REFERENCEThis may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.
The code(s) listed below are ONLY medically necessary if the procedure is performed according to the "Policy" section of this document.