Medical Policy: 07.01.65
Original Effective Date: May 2014
Reviewed: October 2014
Revised: October 2014
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.
Cartilage injuries are described and classified based on the location of injury, size of the injury, and the depth of the injury. The type of surgery necessary largely depends on the aforementioned factors.
Allografting - Osteochondral allografting involves transplantation of a piece of articular cartilage and attached subchondral bone from a cadaver donor to a damaged region of the articular surface of a joint. The use of donor bone is necessary due to the size of lesion, Osteochondral allografting is recommended for lesions 4cm2-10cm2. The goal of this procedure is to provide viable chondrocytes and supporting bone that will be sufficient to maintain the cartilage matrix and thereby relieve pain and reduce further damage. The procedure is performed through an open approach to the knee.The exact area of cartilage that is missing on the patient's femur is mapped out and harvested as a cylinder of cartilage and bone. This cylinder of donor cartilage is then press fit into the patient's femur, completing the cartilage transplant.
Autografting - Osteochondral autograft transfer, also called OATS or mosaicplasty, involves harvesting cylinders of cartilage and bone from areas of the knee, from the patient, that do not bear much weight. These cylinders are then press fit into the cartilage lesion on the weightbearing surface of the knee. The donor sites are then backfilled with synthetic plugs or left to heal on their own. During the OATS procedure a single plug is taken from the patient versus several plugs being removed during the mosaicplasty. All plugs will be removed from non-weight bearing areas. Osteochondral autograft transfer is indicated for cartilage lesions from 1.5 cm2 to 4 cm2 that have failed microfracture surgery or abrasive arthroplasty.
These techniques are limited by the amount of donor tissue available in the joint. Donor site morbidity increases as more tissue is harvested. Treatment of small lesions may be performed arthroscopically, while treatment of larger lesions is typically performed through an open arthrotomy.
Minced cartilage repair is considered a second generation technique that does not require in vitro cell expansion and is described as a single-staged minimally invasive procedure. The procedure uses minced pieces of cartilage seeded over a scaffold which allows for even distribution of the chondrocytes to expand within the defect providing structural and mechanical protection. The first clinical application of the minced cartilage technique was the cartilage autograft implantation system (CAIS) developed by DePuy Mitek. A second technology, DeNOVO NT Graft ("Natural Tissue Graft"; Zimmer Inc, Warsaw, is another application for cartilage regeneration using minced donated juvenile cartilag.e).
Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology on management of osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip and knee state that autologous osteochondral plugs (mosaicplasty) is being investigated for repair of focal chondral defects, but that this procedure is “not currently indicated in the treatment of patients with OA” (Altman et al, 2000).
An assessment of mosaicplasty for knee cartilage defects from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, 2006) concluded: "Current evidence suggests that there are no major safety concerns associated with mosaicplasty for knee cartilage defects. There is some evidence of short-term efficacy, but data on long-term efficacy are inadequate. In view of the uncertainties about the efficacy of the procedure, it should not be used without special arrangements for consent and audit or research."
Classification of Articular Cartilage Lesions by Severity
Softening and swelling
Fragmentation and fissures in area less than 0.5 inch in diameter
Fragmentation and fissures in area larger than 0.5 inch in diameter
Exposed subchondral bone
Source: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics, 2007
Osteochondral allografting may be considered medically necessary as a technique to repair large (4cm2-10 cm2) full-thickness chondral defects of the medial or lateral femoral condyles, patellar or trochlear region caused by acute or repetitive trauma in patients who have had an inadequate response to a prior surgical procedure (microfracture or abrasive arthroplasty), when ALL of the following have been met:
- Adolescent patients should be skeletally mature with documented closure of growth plates). Adult patients should be too young to be considered an appropriate candidate for total knee arthroplasty or other reconstructive knee surgery. Age of patient will be 15-50 years old.
- Body Mass Index < 35 kg/m2
- Focal, full-thickness (grade III or IV) unipolar lesions on the weight-bearing surface of the femoral condyles, patella, or trochlea that are between 4cm2-10cm2 in size
- Documented minimal to absent degenerative changes (no osteoarthritis) in the surrounding articular cartilage (Outerbridge grade II or less), and normal-appearing hyaline cartilage surrounding the border of the defect
- Either normal knee biomechanics, or alignment and stability achieved concurrently with osteochondral grafting planned
- Symptoms currently limiting ambulation
Osteochondral allografting for all other joints, including talar, shoulder, and elbow is considered investigational.
Osteochondral autografting, using one or more cores of osteochondral tissue, may be considered medically necessary for the treatment of symptomatic full-thickness cartilage defects of the medial or lateral femoral condyles, patellar or trochlear region caused by acute or repetitive trauma in patients who have had an inadequate response to a prior surgical procedure (microfracture or abrasive arthroplasty) , when ALL of the following have been met:
Adolescent patients should be skeletally mature with documented closure of growth plates). Adult patients should be too young to be considered an appropriate candidate for total knee arthroplasty or other reconstructive knee surgery. Age of patient will be 15-50 years old.
Body Mass Index < 35 kg/m2
Focal, full-thickness (grade III or IV) unipolar lesions on the weight-bearing surface of the femoral condyles, patella, or trochlea that are between 1.5cm2-4cm2 in size
Documented minimal to absent degenerative changes (no osteoarthritis) in the surrounding articular cartilage (Outerbridge grade II or less), and normal-appearing hyaline cartilage surrounding the border of the defect
Either normal knee biomechanics, or alignment and stability achieved concurrently with osteochondral grafting planned (ie meniscus repair planned during procedure)
Symptoms currently limiting ambulation
Osteochondral autografting for all other joints, shoulder, elbow, and 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. (for example CAIS)
Treatment of focal articular cartilage lesions with allogeneic minced cartilage is considered investigational (for example DeNOVO NT)
Non-autologous mosaicplasty using resorbable synthetic bone filler materials (including but not limited to plugs and granules) to repair osteochondral defects of the knee or ankle is considered investigational. (for example PolyGraft, TruFit BGS Plugs or granules)
Use of minced articular cartilage (whether synthetic, allograft or autograft) to repair osteochondral defects is considered investigational. Randomized trials that compare the outcomes of minced articular cartilage repair with standard methods have not been published. Clinical studies are needed to establish the safety and outcome benefit of this technique over standard methods of cartilage repair.
Hybrid technique of autologous chondrocyte implantation/osteochondral autograft transfer system (OATS) technique for the treatment of osteochondral defects 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.
27415 Osteochondral allograft, knee, open
27416 Osteochondral autograft(s), knee, open (e.g., mosaicplasty) (includes harvesting of autograft[s])
28446 Open osteochondral autograft, talus (includes obtaining graft[s])
29866 Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; osteochondral autograft(s) (e.g., mosaicplasty) (includes harvesting of the autograft[s])
29867 Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; osteochondral allograft (e.g., mosaicplasty)
29885 Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; drilling for osteochondritis dissecans with bone grafting, with or without internal fixation (including debridement of base of lesion)
Wellmark's policy is based on:
- Altman RD, Hochberg MC, Moskowics, RW, et al.; subcommittee on Osteoarthritis Guidelines. Recommendations for the medical management of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. American College of Rheumatology Subcommittee on Osteoarthritis Guideline. Arthritis Rheum. 2000;43(9):1905-1915
- Pichon-Riviere Am, Augustovski F, Garcia Marti S, et al. Mosaicplasty for the treatment of intra-articular cartilage lesions of the knee [summary]. Report IRR No. 180. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy (IECS); 2009.
- Hindle P, Hendry JL, Keating JF, Biant LC. Autologous osteochondral mosaicplasty or TruFit plugs for cartilage repair. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Apr 16. [Epub ahead of print].
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Mosaicplaasty for knee cartilage defects. Interventional Procedure Guidance 162. London, UK: NICE; March 2006.
- ECRI. Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation in the Knee. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Health Technology Information Service; 2008 October 23. 8. (ECRI Hotline Response). Also available: http://www.ecri.org
- ECRI Institute. Ostgeochondral Autograft Transplantation for the Ankle. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Institute; 2009 October 27. 8p. [ECRI hotline response]. Also available: http://www.ecri.org
- Ebert JR, Robertson WB, Woodhouse J, Fallon M, Zheng MH, Ackland T, Wood DJ. Clinical and magnetic resonance imaging-based outcomes to 5 years after matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation to address articular cartilage defects in teh knee. Am J Sports Med. 2011 Apr;39(4):753-63.
- Jones DG, Peterson, L. Autoloous Chondrocyte Implantaion. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Instructional Course Lectures 2007;56:429-445.
- Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC (ATRM). Cartilage autograft implantation system )CAIS) for the repair of knee cartilage through cartilage regeneration. NLM Identifier: NCT00881023. Last updated on October 15, 2012. Available at: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00881023?term=CAIS&rank=1
- Baums MH, Heidrich G, Schultz W, et al. The surgical technique of autologous chondrocyte transplantation of the talus with use of a perosteal graft. Surgical technique. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2007; 89 Suppl 2 Pt.2:170-182.
- Zimmer, Inc. Post Market Study of DeNovo NT, Natural Tissue Graft. NLM Identified: NCT00791245. Last updated on January 25, 2012. Available at: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00791245?term=NCT00791245&rank=1
- Solheim E, Hegna J, Oyen J et al. Results at 10 to 14 years after osteochondral autografting (mosaicplasty) in articular cartilage defects in the knee. Knee 2013; 20(4):287-90.
- Astur DC, Arliani GG, Binz M et al. Autologous osteochondral transplantation for treating patellar chondral injuries: evaluation, treatment, and outcomes of a two-year follow-up study. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2014; 96(10):816-23.
- Tompkins M, Hamann JC, Diduch DR et al. Preliminary results of a novel single-stage cartilage restoration technique: particulated juvenile articular cartilage allograft for chondral defects of the patella. Arthroscopy 2013; 29(10):1661-70.
- Emmerson BC, Gortz S, Jamali AA et al. Fresh osteochondral allografting in the treatment of osteochondritis dissecans of the femoral condyle. Am J Sports Med 2007; 35(6):907-14.
Date Reason Action
May 2014 New policy
October 2014 Interim review Policy revised
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
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and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes.
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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.