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Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

» Summary» Procedure Codes
» Description» Selected References
» Prior Approval» Policy History
» Policy

Medical Policy: 06.01.08 
Original Effective Date: January 2003 
Reviewed: May 2016 
Revised: June 2015 

Benefit Application
Benefit determinations are based on the applicable contract language in effect at the time the services were rendered. Exclusions, limitations or exceptions may apply. Benefits may vary based on contract, and individual member benefits must be verified. Wellmark determines medical necessity only if the benefit exists and no contract exclusions are applicable. This medical policy may not apply to FEP. Benefits are determined by the Federal Employee Program.

This Medical Policy document describes the status of medical technology at the time the document was developed. Since that time, new technology may have emerged or new medical literature may have been published. This Medical Policy will be reviewed regularly and be updated as scientific and medical literature becomes available.


Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), also known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, is a non-invasive technique that can detect and measure different chemical components within tissues (i.e. amino acids, lipid, lactate, alanine, n-acetyl aspartate, choline, creatinine, myoinositol). MRS has been used to study metabolic changes in brain tumors, strokes, seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other diseases affecting the brain. It has also been used to study the metabolism of other organs. Peripheral applications of MRS include the study of myocardial ischemia, peripheral vascular disease, and skeletal muscle.


MRS is similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and can be performed with modified MRI equipment. The primary difference between MRI and MRS is the MRI provides an image of the anatomy and the MRS creates a graph or spectrum arraying the types and quantity of chemicals in the brain or other organs.


The role of MRS in diagnosis and therapeutic planning has not be established by adequate clinical studies. Specifically, there have been no clinical trials demonstrating improved outcomes in patients evaluated with MRS compared to patients evaluated with conventional modalities. Further clinical trials are needed to determine the usefulness of this procedure. In addition, the techniques of acquiring the MRS spectra and interpreting the results are not well standardized.


Prior Approval: 

Not applicable



Magnetic resonance spectroscopy is considered investigational for all indications including, but not limited to:

  • Psychiatric disorders
    • Autism
    • ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Depression
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Schizophrenia
  • Dementia (e.g. Alzheimer's disease, demential with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Movement disorders (e.g. Huntington disease, Parkinson/Parkinsonian syndromes)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cerebrovascular injury
  • Seizure disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Myocardial disease/ischemia
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Brain Tumors
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer

The role of MRS in diagnosis and therapeutic planning has not been established by adequate clinical studies. Specifically, there has been no clinical trials demonstrating improved outcomes in patients evaluated with MRS compared to patients evaluatd with conventional modalities and studies do not clearly delineate how MRS information would be used to guide patient management. In addition, the techniques of acquiring the MRS spectra and interpreting the results are not well standardized. The scientific evidence at this time does not permit conclusions concerning the net effect of this technology on health outcomes and further clinical trials are needed to determine the usefulness of this procedure. Therefore, the use of MRS is considered investigational.


Procedure Codes and Billing Guidelines: 

  • To report provider services, use appropriate CPT* codes, Modifiers, Alpha Numeric (HCPCS level 2) codes, Revenue codes, and/or diagnosis codes.
  • 76390 magnetic resonance spectroscopy.


Selected References: 

  • Burtscher LM, Holtas S. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in brain tumors: clinical applications. Neuroradiology 2001;43:345-352.
  • Moller-Hartmann W, Herninghaus S, Krings T, Marquardt G, Lanfermann H, Pilatus U, Zanella FE. Clinical application of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the diagnosis of intracranial mass lesions. Neuroradiology 2002;44:371-381.
  • Norfray JF, Tomita T, Byrd SE, Ross BD, Berger PA, Miller RS. Clinical impact of MR Spectroscopy when MR imaging is indeterminate for pediatric brain tumors. American Journal of Radiology 1999 July;173: 119-125.
  • Shukala-Dave A, Gupta RK, Roy R et al.  Prospective evaluation of in vivo proton MR spectroscopy in differentiation of similar appearing intracranial cystic lesions. Magn Reson Imaging 2001; 19(1):103-10.
  • Soares DP, Law M. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the brain: review of metabolites and clinical applications. Clin Radiol. 2009 Jan;64(1):12-21.
  • Tran T, Ross B, Lin A. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy in neurological diagnosisExternal Site. Neurol Clin. 2009 Feb;27(1):21-60.
  • ECRI Institute. Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for Screening, Diagnosis, and Staging of Prostate Cancer. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI InstituteExternal Site; 2009 March 6. 10 p. [ECRI hotline response].
  • Kauppinen RA, Peet AC. Using magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy in cancer diagnostics and monitoring: Preclinical and clinical approaches. Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 Oct 15;12(8):665-79.
  • Klijn S, DeVisschere PJ, De Meerleer GO, Villeirs GM. Comparison of qualitative and quantitative approach to prostate MR spectroscopy in peripheral zone cancer detection. Eur J Radiol. 2012 Mar;81(3):411-6.
  • Pinto F, Totaro A, Palermo G, et al. Imaging in prostate cancer staging: present role and future perspectives. Urol Into. 2012;88(2):125-36.
  • ECRI Institute. Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for Screening and Managing Prostate Cancer. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Assessment Information ServiceExternal Site. April 2012. [Hotline Response].
  • Liu ZL, Zhou Q, Zeng QS, et al. Noninvasive evaluation of cerebral glioma grade by using diffusion-weighted imaging-guided single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. J Int Med Res. 2012;40(1):76-84.
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ServicesExternal Site, National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (220.2.1).
  • National Guideline ClearinghouseExternal Site. ACR Appropriateness Criteria Dementia and Movement Disorders, 2014.
  • NNational Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in OncologyExternal Site Central Nervous System Cancers Version 1.2015.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in OncologyExternal SiteProstate Cancer Version 1.2015.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in OncologyExternal Site Invasive Breast Cancer Version 2.2015.
  • National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). External Site, Do Not Do Recommendation for Men with Prostate Cancer.
  • National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). External Site Parkinson’s Disease: Diagnosis and Management in Primary and Secondary Setting.
  • Hudsmith Lucy E, MA, MRCP, Stefan Neubauer, M.D., FRCP. Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in Myocardial Disease. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, Vol. 2. No. 1, 2009
  • Befroy Douglas E., Shulman Gerald I. Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Studies of Human Metabolism, Diabetes, Col. 60, May 2011
  • UpToDateExternal Site. Hepatic Encephalopathy in Adults: Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis, Peter Ferenci, M.D., Topic last updated May 5, 2015.
  • UpToDateExternal Site. Epidemiology, Clinical Features, and Diagnosis of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adults, Sunil G Sheth,M.D., Sunjiv Chopra, M.D., MACP, Topic last updated December 10, 2014.
  • UpToDateExternal Site. Neuroimaging Studies in the Evaluation of Dementia, Normal Relkin, M.D., PhD. Topic last updated October 21, 2014.
  • UpToDateExternal Site. Clinical Presentation and Diagnosis of Brain Tumors, Eric T Wong, M.D., Julian K. Wu, M.D., Topic last updated September 26, 2014.
  • UpToDateExternal Site. MRI of the Breast and Emerging Technologies, Priscilla J. Slanetz, M.D., MPH, FACR, Topic last updated July 2, 2014. m  


Policy History: 

May 2016 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed

June 2015 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

July 2014 - Annual Review, Policy Revised

September 2013 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed

October 2012 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed

October 2011 - Annual Review, Policy Renwed

August 2010 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed


Wellmark medical policies address the complex issue of technology assessment of new and emerging treatments, devices, drugs, etc.   They are developed to assist in administering plan benefits and constitute neither offers of coverage nor medical advice. Wellmark medical policies contain only a partial, general description of plan or program benefits and do not constitute a contract. Wellmark does not provide health care services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Participating providers are independent contractors in private practice and are neither employees nor agents of Wellmark or its affiliates. Treating providers are solely responsible for medical advice and treatment of members. Our medical policies may be updated and therefore are subject to change without notice.

*Current Procedural Terminology © 2012 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Information
New information or technology that would be relevant for Wellmark to consider when this policy is next reviewed may be submitted to:
  Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  Medical Policy Analyst
  P.O. Box 9232
  Des Moines, IA 50306-9232
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