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MP 2.01.71 Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of Rosacea

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/12:2012
  Return to Medical Policy Index


Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract.  Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage.  Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically. 


Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that cannot be cured; the goal of treatment is symptom management. Nonpharmacologic treatments, including laser and light therapy, dermabrasion, and others, are proposed for patients who do not want to use or are unresponsive to pharmacologic treatments.

Rosacea is characterized by episodic erythema, edema, papules, and pustules that occur primarily on the face but may also be present on the scalp, ears, neck, chest, and back. On occasion, rosacea may affect the eyes. Patients with rosacea have a tendency to flush or blush easily. Since rosacea causes facial swelling and redness, it is easily confused with other skin conditions, such as acne, skin allergy, and sunburn.

Rosacea affects mostly adults with fair skin between the ages of 20 and 60 years and is more common in women, but often most severe in men. Rosacea is not life-threatening, but if not treated, may lead to persistent erythema, telangiectasias, and rhinophyma (hyperplasia and nodular swelling and congestion of the skin of the nose). The etiology and pathogenesis of rosacea is unknown but may be a result of both genetic and environmental factors. Some of the theories as to the causes of rosacea include blood vessel disorders, chronic Helicobacter pylori infection, demodex folliculorum (mites), and immune system disorders.

While the clinical manifestations of rosacea do not usually impact the physical health status of the patient, there may be psychological consequences from the most visually apparent symptoms (i.e., erythema, papules, pustules, telangiectasias) that can impact quality of life. Rhinophyma, an end-stage of chronic acne, has been associated with obstruction of nasal passages and basal cell carcinoma in rare, severe cases. The probability of developing nasal obstruction or basal or squamous cell carcinoma with rosacea is not sufficiently great to warrant preventive removal of rhinophymatous tissue.

While rosacea cannot be eliminated, treatment can be effective to relieve its signs and symptoms. Treatment may include oral and topical antibiotics, isotretinoin, beta-blockers, clonidine, and anti-inflammatories. Patients are also instructed on various self-care measures such as avoiding skin irritants and dietary items thought to exacerbate acute flare-ups. To reduce visible blood vessels, treat rhinophyma, reduce redness, and improve appearance, various techniques have been used such as laser and light therapy, dermabrasion, chemical peels, surgical debulking, and electrosurgery. Nonpharmacologic therapy has also been tried in patients who cannot tolerate or do not want to use pharmacologic treatments. The various lasers used include low-powered electrical devices and vascular light lasers to remove telangiectasias, CO2 lasers to remove unwanted tissue from rhinophyma and reshape the nose, and intense pulsed lights that generate multiple wavelengths to treat a broader spectrum of tissue.

Regulatory Status

Several laser and light therapy systems have been cleared for marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through the 510(k) process for a variety of dermatologic indications, including rosacea. For example, rosacea is among the indications for the Candela pulse dye laser system (Candela Corp.; Wayland, MA), the Lumenis One Family of Systems intense pulsed light component (Lumenis Inc.; Santa Clara, Ca), and the Harmony XL multi-application platform laser device (Alma Lasers; Israel).


Nonpharmacologic treatment of rosacea, including but not limited to laser and light therapy, dermabrasion, chemical peels, surgical debulking and electrosurgery, is considered investigational.

Policy Guidelines

No applicable information

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

Some state or federal mandates (e.g., FEP) prohibit Plans from denying technologies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as investigational. In these instances, Plans may have to consider the coverage eligibility of FDA-approved technologies on the basis of medical necessity alone.

Plans may wish to examine specific contract language regarding the definitions of cosmetic services to determine whether contract or benefit exclusions may apply to the treatment of rosacea. Please refer to policy No. 10.01.09 for further discussion on cosmetic/reconstructive services.


This policy was originally created in 2004 and was updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature search was performed for the period October 2011 through October 2012. Following is a summary of the key literature to date.

In 2011, van Zuuren and colleagues published a Cochrane systematic review on interventions for rosacea (an update of a 2005 review). (1, 2) The systematic review identified 58 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared treatments to placebo or a different intervention in adults with clinically diagnosed moderate to severe rosacea. The investigators identified only 1 trial on light therapy and 1 trial on laser therapy, and the trials did not compare these interventions with pharmacologic treatments or placebo controls. The remainder of the RCTs evaluated pharmacologic treatments. The Cochrane review highlights the lack of evidence on light and laser therapy for treating rosacea, especially in comparison to nonpharmacologic treatments. In addition, as the authors noted, additional trials evaluating nonpharmacologic therapies should be a priority because they have the potential to treat symptoms on the face, which is highly desirable.

The literature on nonpharmacologic treatment of rosacea primarily consists of case series. (3-6) One of the largest series was published in 2011 by Kassir and colleagues who reviewed the medical records from 102 patients with mild to severe rosacea. (4) All patients had their entire face treated with an intense pulsed light (IPL) system; the number of treatments and treatment parameters were individualized. Patients were evaluated pre-treatment and 1-2 weeks post-treatment. According to clinician assessment and photodocumentation, 80% of patients had reduced redness after treatment. Photodocumentation showed a 51% reduction in telangiectasias. The study did not include long-term follow-up. Another of the larger series was published in 2005 by Schroeter and colleagues in the Netherlands. (5) The authors reported 77.8% long-term clearance (follow-up of 12–99 months) of telangiectasia in 60 randomly selected patients with facial rosacea who had been treated with IPL.

Two randomized trials, both using split-face designs, on nonpharmacologic treatment for rosacea were identified. Neither of these RCTs compared nonpharmacologic treatments with a placebo control or with pharmacologic treatment. A 2009 study by Neuhaus and colleagues included patients with moderate erythematotelangiectatic rosacea without active inflammatory papules and pustules. Patients were at least 18 years of age and had not received previous treatment with a laser or light-based device, were not undergoing treatment with a photosensitizing agent, and had not had changes to their medication in the past 3 months. (7) Twenty-nine patients were randomly assigned to receive treatment with a pulsed dye laser (PDL, Vbeam, Candela Corp) on one side of the face and an intense pulsed light (IPL, Quantum, Lumenis) on the other side, and 4 patients each received either PDL or IPL on one side of the face and no treatment on the other. Laterality of treatment (right versus left side) was also randomly assigned. Patients underwent a total of 3 treatment sessions, 4 weeks apart and received their final evaluation 4 weeks after the third treatment. Outcomes included an overall erythema score and overall telangiectasia score graded by a blinded observer, and patient self-report of symptoms. Only p values, not actual scores were reported. There were no significant differences in outcomes between the PDL and IPL groups. Thus, we cannot conclude that one of these treatments is superior to the other. To determine whether both are effective or ineffective, studies with a control group are needed. In this study, there were significantly lower erythema and telangiectasia scores for both IPL and PDL treatment compared to control (p<0.01). However, the comparisons with no treatment included only 4 patients each, and therefore these findings should be considered preliminary.

In 2010, Maxwell and colleagues published a split-face design study that included 14 patients with acne rosacea. (8) The study evaluated the combination of laser treatment and a topical treatment. All patients received 6 sessions of treatment with a 532 nm laser and a retinaldehyde-based topical application over 3 months on a randomly selected side of the face. The other side of the face served as the control. Eleven of 14 patients (79%) completed the study. At the end of the treatment period, blinded evaluators could correctly identify the treated side of the face 47% of the time (i.e., close to the 50% expected by chance). This was a small study with drop-outs and involved limited collection of objective efficacy data.

Laser surgery is discussed on the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) health information website (last updated in 2009) as a treatment option for red lines caused by dilated blood vessels or for rhinophyma. (9) Thus, although phototherapy, either alone or in combination with aminolevulinic or methylaminolevulinic acid, appears to be an increasingly accepted and effective mode of treatment for rosacea and other skin disorders, there are no high-quality studies that compare this treatment approach with placebo or other topical therapies. In addition, standard practice guidelines for phototherapy have not been established.

Ongoing Clinical Trials

A search of the online database in October 2012 did not identify any active comparative trials evaluating nonpharmacologic treatments for rosacea.


The evidence to date remains insufficient to conclude that nonpharmacologic treatment for rosacea improves health outcomes. Limited evidence from case series report short-term improvements in redness and telangiectasias. Two small randomized split-face design studies using laser therapy have been published, but these compare different methods of laser treatment and therefore do not offer useful evidence on the efficacy of nonpharmacologic treatment compared to alternative treatment options. As a result, there is a need for further RCTs comparing nonpharmacologic treatments to placebo controls and to pharmacologic treatments. Thus, nonpharmacologic treatments for rosacea are considered investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

A search of the National Guideline Clearinghouse database in October 2012 did not identify any guidelines or position statements from national organizations on the use of nonpharmacologic treatments for treating rosacea.

Medicare National Coverage

No national coverage determination.





    1. van Zuuren EJ, Graber MA, Hollis S et al. Interventions for rosacea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; (3):CD003262.
    2. Van Zuuren EJ, Kramer S, Carter B et al. Interventions for rosacea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; (3):CD003262.
    3. Bryld LE, Jemec GB. Photodynamic therapy in a series of rosacea patients. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2007; 21(9):1199-202.
    4. Kassir R, Kolluru A, Kassir M. Intense pulsed light for the treatment of rosacea and telangiectasias. J Cosmet Laser Ther 2011; 13(5):216-22.
    5. Schroeter CA, Haaf-von Below S, Neumann HA. Effective treatment of rosacea using intense pulsed light systems. Dermatol Surg 2005; 31(10):1285-9.
    6. Tan SR, Tope WD. Pulsed dye laser treatment of rosacea improves erythema, symptomatology, and quality of life. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 51(4):592-9.
    7. Neuhaus IM, Zane LT, Tope WD. Comparative efficacy of nonpurpuragenic pulsed dye laser and intense pulsed light for erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. Dermatol Surg 2009; 35(6):920-8.
    8. Maxwell E, Ellis DA, Manis H. Acne rosacea: effectiveness of 532 nm laser on the cosmetic appearance of the skin. J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2010; 39(3):292-6.
    9. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). 2009. Available online at: Last accessed November, 2012.




CPT 15780-15783 Dermabrasion, face code range
  15788-15793 Chemical peel code range
  17000-17004 Destruction (e.g., laser surgery, electrosurgery, cryosurgery, chemosurgery, surgical curettement), all benign or premalignant lesions (e.g., actinic keratoses) other than skin tags or cutaneous vascular proliferative lesions code range
  17106-17108 Destruction of cutaneous vascular proliferative lesions (e.g., laser technique) code range
  30117 Excision or destruction (e.g., laser), intranasal lesion; internal approach
  30118 Excision or destruction (e.g., laser), intranasal lesion; external approach (lateral rhinotomy)
ICD-9 Procedure 86.3 Other local excision or destruction of lesion or tissue of skin and subcutaneous tissue; destruction of skin by cauterization, cryosurgery, fulguration or laser beam
ICD-9 Diagnosis   Investigational for all relevant diagnoses
  695.3 Rosacea 
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/14)   Investigational for all relevant diagnoses
  L71.0-L71.9 Rosacea code range
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/14)   ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services.
  3E00XTZ Administration, physiological systems and anatomical regions, introduction, skin and mucous membranes, external, destructive agent
  0HD0XZZ, 0HD1XZZ, 0HD4XZZ, 0HD5XZZ, 0HD6XZZ, 0HD7XZZ, 0HD8XZZ, 0HDAXZZ, 0HDBXZZ, 0HDCXZZ, 0HDDXZZ, 0HDEXZZ, 0HDFXZZ, 0HDGXZZ, 0HDHXZZ, 0HDJXZZ, 0HDKXZZ, 0HDLXZZ, 0HDMXZZ, 0HDNXZZ Surgical, skin and breast, extraction, external, code by body part
  0H50XZD, 0H50XZZ, 0H51XZD, 0H51XZZ, 0H54XZD, 0H54XZZ, 0H55XZD, 0H55XZZ, 0H56XZD, 0H56XZZ, 0H57XZD, 0H57XZZ, 0H58XZD, 0H58XZZ, 0H59XZD, 0H59XZZ, 0H5AXZD, 0H5AXZZ, 0H5BXZD, 0H5BXZZ, 0H5CXZD, 0H5CXZZ, 0H5DXZD, 0H5DXZZ, 0H5EXZD, 0H5EXZZ, 0H5FXZD, 0H5FXZZ, 0H5GXZD, 0H5GXZZ, 0H5HXZD, 0H5HXZZ, 0H5JXZD, 0H5JXZZ, 0H5KXZD, 0H5KXZZ, 0H5LXZD, 0H5LXZZ, 0H5MXZD, 0H5MXZZ, 0H5NXZD, 0H5NXZZ, 0H5QXZZ, 0H5RXZZ Surgical, skin and breast, destruction, external, single or multiple, code by body part
  0HB0XZZ, 0HB1XZZ, 0HB4XZZ, 0HB5XZZ, 0HB6XZZ, 0HB7XZZ, 0HB8XZZ, 0HB9XZZ, 0HBAXZZ, 0HBBXZZ, 0HBCXZZ, 0HBDXZZ, 0HBEXZZ, 0HBFXZZ, 0HBGXZZ, 0HBHXZZ, 0HBJXZZ, 0HBKXZZ, 0HBLXZZ, 0HBMXZZ, 0HBNXZZ Surgical, skin and breast, excision, external, code by body part
Type of Service Medicine  
Place of Service Outpatient  

Rosacea, Treatment of
Laser Treatment, Rosacea

Policy History

Date Action Reason
11/09/04 Add to Medicine section New policy; literature review through September 2004
12/14/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement; reference number 3 added.
12/12/06 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 4-6 added; no change in policy statement
4/09/08 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 7-9 added; Rationale section edited; no change in policy statement
12/10/09 Replace policy Literature review update through October 2009; reference numbers 9 and 10 added (previous reference number 9 removed); no change in policy statement
12/09/10 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through October 2010. Rationale extensively re-written; references re-ordered and selected older references were removed. Reference number 7 added. No change in policy statement.
12/08/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through October 2011. Reference numbers 1 and 5 added; other references re-numbered or removed. No change in policy statement
12/13/12 Replace Policy
Policy updated with literature review through October 2012. No change in policy statement.