Medical Policy: 02.01.31
Original Effective Date: January 2007
Reviewed: April 2019
Revised: March 2016
This policy contains information which is clinical in nature. The policy is not medical advice. The information in this policy is used by Wellmark to make determinations whether medical treatment is covered under the terms of a Wellmark member's health benefit plan. Physicians and other health care providers are responsible for medical advice and treatment. If you have specific health care needs, you should consult an appropriate health care professional. If you would like to request an accessible version of this document, please contact customer service at 800-524-9242.
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.
Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) studies are a type of electrodiagnostic study conducted to assess the integrity and function of the peripheral nervous system and to diagnose related diseases. NCV studies measure the velocity of nerve impulses, the amplitude and the wave shapes of the motor responses. Another relevant measurement is that of nerve conduction latency. Abnormal results include slowing of the nerve conduction signal, a completely blocked conduction, failure to elicit a motor response from a nerve signal or a diminished motor response. The results of these tests may assist the physician to arrive at a differential diagnosis based on the degree of demyelination or loss of axon function in various portions of the nerve.
Studies have shown the correlation of portable automated nerve conduction test results with standard testing; however, questions remain about the diagnostic performance and clinical utility (i.e., impact on outcomes) of point-of-care automated testing. Particularly needed are data on the sensitivity and specificity of automated nerve conduction tests performed by non-specialists at the point-of-care in comparison with the "gold standard" of laboratory NCS/EMG. One study from a tertiary care clinic found high sensitivity but low specificity for the diagnosis of lumbosacral radiculopathy. Another potential clinical use could be early identification of asymptomatic diabetic neuropathy to institute-appropriate clinical management before the onset of ulcerations, but no studies were identified that assessed the influence of point-of-care nerve conduction tests on clinical outcomes in this population. Overall, evidence addressing the utility of point-of-care automated nerve conduction tests in a clinical setting is limited. There is no peer-reviewed published medical literature on the use of voltage-actuated sensory nerve conduction tests and their impact on clinical outcomes. Overall, evidence remains insufficient to evaluate the effect of automated point-of-care nerve conduction tests on health outcomes. Therefore, automated point-of-care nerve conduction tests are considered investigational.
In a position statement on the Proper Performance and Interpretation of Electrodiagnostic Studies and the Recommended Use of Electrodiagnostic Medicine from the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM, 2014), although no specific reference to or recommendation for automated nerve conduction testing devices is made, it is noted that "Nerve conduction studies performed independent of needle EMG studies may only provide a portion of the information needed to diagnose muscle, nerve root, and most nerve disorders."
Individuals without a medical education in neuromuscular disorders and without special training in EDX procedures typically are not qualified to interpret the waveforms generated by NCSs and needle EMGs or to correlate the findings with other clinical information to reach a diagnosis.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2016) released guidelines on the management of carpal tunnel syndrome. The guidelines were endorsed by other specialty societies including the American College of Radiology and American College of Surgeons. The guidelines found “limited evidence” for a “hand-held nerve conduction study.”
Nerve conduction studies (NCV) are considered investigational when:
Nerve conduction studies (NVC) are considered investigational for screening for all diagnosis, including but not limited to: polyneuropathy of diabetes or end-stage renal disease.
Although portable, automated, noninvasive testing of nerve conduction has been suggested as an easier method for providers to obtain rapid results, the AANEM recommends that electrodiagnostic studies of EMG and NCS be performed together, except in unique situations, in a study design determined and interpreted by a trained physician, so that healthcare decisions are based on complete diagnostic information (AANEM, 2004). Currently, there is insufficient evidence in the published data to demonstrate that the use of automated nerve conduction testing devices are valid measures in the diagnosis of peripheral nerve disease. More studies are needed to prove the value of using automated, noninvasive nerve conduction testing.
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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.
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