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MP 4.01.17 Surgical Interruption of Pelvic Nerve Pathways for Primary and Secondary Dysmenorrhea

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/4:2014
  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.


Two laparoscopic surgical approaches are proposed as adjuncts to conservative surgical therapy for the treatment of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. These approaches are laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) and presacral neurectomy (PSN).


Dysmenorrhea is defined as the occurrence of painful menstrual cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea occurs in the absence of an identifiable cause, while secondary dysmenorrhea is related to an identifiable pathologic condition, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, or pelvic adhesions. The etiology of primary dysmenorrhea is incompletely understood but is thought to be related to the overproduction of uterine prostaglandins. Therefore, first-line pharmacologic therapy typically includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which reduce prostaglandin production. Oral contraceptives are another approach. Patients with secondary dysmenorrhea may be offered both NSAIDs and oral contraceptives, as well as a variety of other hormonal therapies. Patients with endometriosis frequently undergo surgery to ablate, excise, or enucleate endometrial deposits or lyse pelvic adhesions. Collectively, these surgical procedures may be referred to as “conservative surgical therapy.”

Uterine nerve ablation (UNA) and PSN are 2 laparoscopic surgical approaches that have been investigated as techniques to interrupt most of the cervical sensory nerve fibers in patients with dysmenorrhea. UNA involves the transection of the uterosacral ligaments at their insertion into the cervix, while PSN involves the removal of the presacral nerves lying within the interiliac triangle. PSN interrupts a greater number of nerve pathways compared with LUNA, and is technically more demanding. Either LUNA or PSN can be performed as adjuncts to conservative surgical therapy in patients with secondary dysmenorrhea.

Regulatory Status

Not applicable


Laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) and laparoscopic presacral neurectomy (LPSN) are considered investigational as techniques to treat primary or secondary dysmenorrhea.

Policy Guidelines

Conservative surgical therapy includes ablation or excision of endometrial deposits or lysis of pelvic adhesions, typically performed during laparoscopy. Presacral neurectomy may be performed at the time of this laparoscopy.

There is no specific CPT code for laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation or presacral neurectomy. CPT code 58578 (unlisted laparoscopy procedure, uterus) may be used. For secondary dysmenorrhea, presacral neurectomy may be performed in conjunction with either of the following procedures:

58660: Laparoscopy, surgical; with lysis of adhesions

58662: Laparoscopy, surgical; with fulguration or excision of lesions of the ovary, pelvic viscera, or peritoneal surface by any method

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

No applicable information


This policy was originally created in 2004 and was updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature review was performed for the period February 20, 2013 through March 19, 2014. Following is a summary of key literature.

Systematic Reviews

A 2005 Cochrane review of surgical interruption of pelvic nerve pathways for primary and secondary dysmenorrhea concluded that, “there is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of nerve interruption in the management of dysmenorrhea, regardless of cause.”(1) The same authors published a systematic review in 2007 that included 1 additional study in the meta-analysis, for a total of 9 randomized trials including 773 women.(2) Eligible studies were prospective, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing surgical interruption of pelvic nerve pathways with no treatment or another treatment in women with primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Studies of secondary dysmenorrhea associated with the use of intrauterine contraceptive devices were excluded. The primary outcome in all the reviewed trials was pain relief, which was measured and reported in a variety of ways. The 2007 systematic review concluded that evidence remained insufficient to determine whether surgical interruption of pelvic nerve pathways is effective. For laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA), questions remained concerning the durability of the procedure, the risk of anatomic distortion, and the effect on subsequent pregnancies. The authors also concluded that due to the difficulty of PSN and its related risks, this procedure should be performed by a highly skilled surgeon trained specifically in this operation, within the setting of controlled trials and with full disclosure about the potential hazards.

Randomized Controlled Trials

Conventional treatment plus LUNA versus conventional treatment alone

The 2007 systematic review discussed above(2) identified 2 trials that compared LUNA with diagnostic laparoscopy alone.(3,4) The smaller trial (n=21)(3) measured pain on a 5-point pain scale, and the other study (n=56)(4) used a visual analog scale (VAS). A pooled analysis of these trials(2) found that, at 6 months or less follow-up, there was no significant difference between groups in pain relief (odds ratio [OR], 1.43; 95%, confidence interval [CI], 0.56 to 3.69). However, at 12 months, there was greater pain relief with LUNA (OR=6.12; 95%, CI, 1.78 to 21.03). These studies included a relatively small number of women, and estimates of effectiveness were imprecise, as evidenced by the wide CIs.

Three trials compared LUNA plus conservative surgery with conservative surgery alone.(4-6) A fourth trial compared LUNA plus laparoscopic bipolar coagulation of uterine vessels with laparoscopic bipolar coagulation of uterine vessels only for women with uterine myomas.(7) No significant difference in pain relief was found in pooled analyses of 3 trials after 6 months or less follow-up (n=190; OR=1.03; 95%, CI, 0.52 to 2.02) or of 2 trials with up to 12 months of follow-up (n=217; OR=0.77; 95%, CI, 0.43 to 1.39). There were also no significant differences between groups in quality of life, anxiety, or depression.

Additional trials since the 2007 systematic review have compared LUNA with diagnostic laparoscopy to diagnostic laparoscopy alone. A 2009 study from the U.K. included women who had chronic pelvic pain lasting longer than 6 months and who had not been diagnosed with moderate-to-severe endometriosis or major pelvic inflammatory disease.(8) Forty-five percent of the sample had some type of visible pathology; 17% minimal endometriosis and 20% had adhesions. LUNA after diagnostic laparoscopy (n=243) was compared with diagnostic laparoscopy alone (n=244) for women with primary dysmenorrhea. The primary outcome was patient-rated pain using a 10-cm VAS score. Patients were asked about 3 types of pain (noncyclical pain, dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia). At 12-month follow-up, pain data were missing for 51 women (21%) in the LUNA group and 48 (20%) women in the control group; an additional 5 women in the LUNA group and 4 women in the control group withdrew consent during the first year of follow-up. At 12 months, there was no significant difference between groups in any of the types of pain or in the worst pain level of any type. There was also no significant difference between groups in any of the pain outcomes when the difference in pain was measured over all timepoints (outcomes were assessed at 3 and 6 months and 1, 2, 3, and 5 years). The median time in the study was 69 months; 72% of women had at least 5 years of follow-up. Note that actual VAS scores for each group were not reported but were represented on figures. Advantages of this study include longer-term follow-up, blinding of subjective outcomes, and randomization after inspection of the pelvis to ensure eligibility.

A 2011 RCT by El-Din Shawki, conducted in Egypt, included women with pelvic pain and excluded those with moderate to severe endometriosis or previous surgery for endometriosis or for pelvic inflammatory disease.(9) A total of 190 women were randomized, 95 to each group. A total of 171 of 190 (90%) completed the 12-month follow-up. Clinical success was defined as the percentage of women who reported no, minimal, or tolerable pain during the follow-up period without hysterectomy or repeated LUNA. At 12 months, the clinical success rate was 63 of 86 (73%) in the LUNA group and 63 of 85 (74%) in the control group; the difference between groups was not statistically significant. Moreover, there was not a statistically significant difference between groups in dysmenorrhea and most other efficacy variables. The only statistically significant difference, favoring the LUNA group, was in the rate of dyspareunia

Section summary

Several RCTs have compared conventional treatment with conventional treatment plus LUNA. The results of these trials generally indicate that outcomes of conventional treatment are similar to outcomes of conventional treatment plus LUNA. This evidence suggests that LUNA does not offer incremental benefit above that of conventional treatment for the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

Conventional treatment plus presacral neurectomy versus conventional treatment alone

No RCTs were identified that evaluated presacral neurectomy (PSN) for treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.

For secondary dysmenorrhea, 3 trials compared PSN plus conservative surgery to conservative surgical therapy alone in patients with endometriosis.(5,6,10,11) A pooled analysis of 2 trials with 197 women found a significant difference between treatment groups, favoring the PSN group (OR=3.14; 95%, CI, 1.59 to 6.21). Two of the trials were published in the early 1990s. The largest and most recent trial, published by Zullo et al in 2003, randomized 141 women and included 126 women in the analysis.(11) The primary outcome was the cure rate, defined as the percentage of patients who reported an absence of dysmenorrhea or dysmenorrhea that did not require medical treatment. At 6 and 12 months, the cure rate for the treatment and control groups was 87.3% versus 60.3% and 85.7% versus 57.1%, respectively. While there was no difference in short-term complications between the 2 groups, at 12 months, 14.3% of the PSN group reported constipation, compared with none in the control group. While the results of this trial are positive, several factors limit its interpretation. All of the surgeries were performed by 1 physician, which raises questions about whether the results can be generalized. In addition, although the trial reported using an intention-to-treat analysis, 15 of the 141 randomized subjects were not included in the analysis.

An updated report on the participants in the Zullo et al trial found that, at 24 months, outcomes continued to be better in the PSN group and the overall complication rate in the PSN group continued to be higher.(12) The cure rate (absence of dysmenorrhea) was higher for the PSN group (34.4%) compared with the control laparoscopy group (18%). The percentage of women with dysmenorrhea not requiring medical attention was 82% and 65.6% in the PSN and control group, respectively. However, 11 (18.3%) women in the PSN group had long-term complications consisting of bowel and urinary dysfunction, compared with none in the control laparoscopy group. This high complication rate raises questions regarding the risk-benefit ratio of adding PSN to a conservative laparoscopic therapy.

Section summary

There is limited clinical trial evidence on the benefit of PSN for secondary dysmenorrhea. Some of these trials report that symptoms are reduced to a greater extent with PSN compared with conventional therapy alone. However, adverse events, primarily constipation, are also increased following PSN. Further RCTs are needed to better define the risk/benefit ratio and the patient population that might benefit from this treatment.

LUNA versus PSN

The only randomized study on this topic was a 1996 study by Chen et al that randomized 68 patients to undergo either LUNA or PSN.(13) The procedure was considered a success if there was at least a 50% reduction in pain. While there was no significant difference in the 2 procedures at 6 months, PSN was associated with improved pain relief compared with LUNA at greater than 6 months. However, the incidence of adverse effects was greater with PSN; specifically, 94% of patients randomized to PSN reported constipation.


The evidence is insufficient to form conclusions on whether laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) improves health outcomes in patients with primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Studies comparing LUNA with diagnostic laparoscopy alone have not found a consistent benefit for the addition of LUNA to diagnostic laparoscopy. In addition, sample sizes were small in many studies, and there are few studies with follow-up of 12 months or longer.

The evidence on presacral neurectomy (PSN) for treating primary dysmenorrhea is also insufficient to form conclusions; no randomized trials were identified in patients with primary dysmenorrhea. For secondary dysmenorrhea, only one recent well-conducted trial on PSN was identified; this trial found improvement in pain outcomes but also higher complication rates. The net health benefit remains unclear and needs to be further assessed in additional trials.

Due to the limitations of the available literature and lack of support in specialty society guidelines, LUNA and PSN are considered investigational for the treatment of primary and secondary dysmenorrhea.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence: In 2007, they issued interventional procedure guidance number 234 on LUNA for chronic pelvic pain.(14) The guidance states “The evidence on laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) for chronic pelvic pain suggests that it is not efficacious and therefore should not be used.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: As of March 2014, a practice bulletin on chronic pelvic pain, issued in 2004, has been archived and is no longer available on the organization’s website or at online site

Medicare National Coverage

There is no national coverage determination (NCD). In the absence of an NCD, coverage decisions are left to the discretion of local Medicare carriers.


  1. Proctor ML, Latthe PM, Farquhar CM et al. Surgical interruption of pelvic nerve pathways for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; (4):CD001896.
  2. Latthe PM, Proctor ML, Farquhar CM et al. Surgical interruption of pelvic nerve pathways in dysmenorrhea: a systematic review of effectiveness. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2007; 86(1):4-15.
  3. Lichten EM, Bombard J. Surgical treatment of primary dysmenorrhea with laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation. J Reprod Med 1987; 32(1):37-41.
  4. Johnson NP, Farquhar CM, Crossley S et al. A double-blind randomized controlled trial of laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation for women with chronic pelvic pain. Bjog 2004; 111(9):950-9.
  5. Tjaden B, Schlaff WD, Kimball A et al. The efficacy of presacral neurectomy for the relief of midline dysmenorrhea. Obstet Gynecol 1990; 76(1):89-91.
  6. Vercellini P, Aimi G, Busacca M et al. Laparoscopic uterosacral ligament resection for dysmenorrhea associated with endometriosis: results of a randomized, controlled trial. Fertil Steril 2003; 80(2-Jan):310-9.
  7. Sutton C, Pooley AS, Jones KD. A prospective, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation in the treatment of pelvic pain associated with endometriosis. Gynaecol Endosc 2001; 10(4):217-22.
  8. Daniels J, Gray R, Hills RK et al. Laparoscopic uterosacral nerve ablation for alleviating chronic pelvic pain. Jama 2009; 302(9):955-61.
  9. El-Din Shawki H. The efficacy of laparoscopic uterosacral nerve ablation (LUNA) in the treatment of unexplained chronic pelvic pain: a randomized controlled trial. Gynecol Surg 2011; 8(1):31-39.
  10. Candiani GB, Fedele L, Vercellini P et al. Presacral neurectomy for the treatment of pelvic pain associated with endometriosis: a controlled study. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1992; 167(1):100-3.
  11. Zullo F, Palomba S, Zupi E et al. Effectiveness of presacral neurectomy in women with severe dysmenorrhea caused by endometriosis who were treated with laparoscopic conservative surgery: a 1-year prospective randomized double-blind controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2003; 189(1-Jan):5-10.
  12. Zullo F, Palomba S, Zupi E et al. Long-term effectiveness of presacral neurectomy for the treatment of severe dysmenorrhea due to endometriosis. J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc 2004; 11(1):23-8.
  13. Chen FP, Chang SD, Chu KK et al. Comparison of laparoscopic presacral neurectomy and laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation for primary dysmenorrhea. J Reprod Med 1996; 41(7):463-6.
  14. National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence (NICE). Laparoscopic uterine nerve ablation (LUNA) for chronic pelvic pain. NICE Interventional Procedure Guidance 234. 2007. Available online at: Last accessed March, 2014.  




CPT  58578 Unlisted laparoscopic procedure, uterus 
ICD-9 Diagnosis   Investigational for all codes
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15)     Invesetigational for all relevant diagnoses
   N94.4 Primary dysmenorrhea
   N94.5 Secondary dysmenorrhea
   N94.6 Dysmenorrhea, unspecified
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15)    ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services. There is no specific ICD-10-PCS code for this procedure.
   0UJD4ZZ Surgical, female reproductive system, inspection, uterus and cervix, percutaneous endoscopic


Dysmenorrhea, LUNA or Presacral Neurectomy
Laparoscopic Uterine Nerve Ablation
Presacral Neurectomy

Policy History

Date Action Reason
04/16/04 Add policy to OB/Gyn section New policy
04/1/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement. Reference numbers 8 and 10 added
3/7/06 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no additional published literature identified; no change in policy statement
3/12/2009 Replace policy  Policy updated with literature search from August 2007 to January 2009; reference numbers 13 and 14 added; no change in policy statement 
03/11/10 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; rationale rewritten; reference numbers 6, 7 and 12 added; other references renumbered/removed; no change in policy statement.
3/10/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference number 11 added; no change in policy statement
03/08/12 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search. Reference number 9 added; other references renumbered or removed. No change in policy statement
04/11/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search through February 20, 2013. No change in policy statement
4/10/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search through March 19, 2014. No new references added. No change in policy statement