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MP 7.01.134 Implantable Sinus Spacers and Stents for Postoperative Use Following Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
July 2012
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/7:2012
  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.


Sinus spacers/stents are devices that are used postoperatively following endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS). The intent of these devices is to maintain patency of the sinus openings in the postoperative period, and/or to serve as a local drug delivery vehicle. Reducing postoperative inflammation and maintaining patency of the sinuses may be important in achieving optimal sinus drainage and may impact recovery from surgery.

Endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS) is typically performed in patients with chronic rhinosinusitis unresponsive to conservative treatment. The surgery is associated with improvements in symptoms in up to 90% of more appropriately selected patients. Because of the high success rates and minimally invasive approach, these procedures have rapidly increased in frequency, with an estimated 250,000 procedures performed annually in the U.S. (1) They can be done either in the physician’s office under local anesthesia or in the hospital setting under general anesthesia.

ESS involves the removal of small pieces of bone, polyps, and debridement of tissue within the sinus cavities. There are a number of variations on the specific approach, depending on the disorders that are being treated and the preferences of the treating surgeon. For all procedures, there is a substantial amount of postoperative inflammation and swelling, and postoperative care is therefore a crucial component of ESS.

There are a number of postoperative treatment regimens, and the optimal regimen is not certain. Options include saline irrigation, nasal packs, topical steroids, systemic steroids, topical decongestants, oral antibiotics, and/or sinus cavity debridement. There have been a number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that have evaluated various treatment options, but all different strategies have not been rigorously evaluated. (2-5) A systematic review evaluated the evidence for these therapies. (1) The authors of this review concluded that the evidence was not strong for any of these treatments but that some clinical trial evidence supported improvements in outcomes. The strongest evidence was for use of nasal saline irrigation, topical nasal steroid spray, and sinus cavity debridement.

Some form of sinus packing is generally performed postoperatively. Simple dressings moistened with saline can be inserted manually following surgery. Foam dressings are polysaccharide substances that form a gel when hydrated and can be used as nasal packs for a variety of indications. (1) Middle meatal spacers are splint-like devices that prop open the sinus cavities post-ESS, but are not capable of drug delivery. There is some RCT evidence that middle meatal spacers may reduce the formation of synechiae following ESS, although the available studies have significant heterogeneity in this outcome. (6)

Implantable sinus stents/spacers are another option for postoperative management following ESS. These implants are inserted via catheters under endoscopic guidance. These devices may stabilize the sinus openings and the turbinates, reduce edema, and/or prevent obstruction by adhesions. They also have the capability of being infused with medication that can be delivered topically over an extended period of time, and this local delivery of medications may be superior to topical application in the postoperative setting.

Regulatory Status

The PROPEL™ system was granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval under the premarketing approval (PMA) program in August 2011. This device is a self-expanding, bioabsorbable, steroid-eluting stent that is intended for use in the ethmoid sinus. Steroids (mometasone furoate) are embedded in a polyethylene glycol polymer, which allows sustained release of the drug over an approximate duration of 30 days. The device is dissolvable over a period of several weeks, and thereby does not require removal.

The Relieva Stratus™ MicroFlow spacer is a balloon-based device that acts as a spacer and medication delivery system. It was FDA approved under the 510(k) program in October 2011. It is indicated for use as a postoperative spacer to maintain an opening to the sinuses within the first 14 days postoperatively. This device is temporary and requires manual removal after 30 days, with implantation of a new device if needed. It is approved for infusion with saline, but not for use with other medications such as steroids.


The use of implantable sinus stents/spacers for postoperative treatment following endoscopic sinus surgery is considered investigational.

Policy Guidelines

Sinus stents/spacers are defined as implantable devices that are specifically designed to improve patency and/or deliver local medication. These are distinguished from sinus packing and variations on packing devices that are routinely employed post-sinus surgery.

Foam dressings, such as SinuFoam™, are used as nasal packs for a variety of conditions, including nosebleeds, and have also been used post-ESS. These are considered different types of nasal packing.

Middle meatal spacers are related but separate devices that are intended to maintain sinus patency post-ESS. They are splint-like devices that are inserted directly rather than under endoscopic guidance, and they do not have the capability of delivering local medication.


There are no specific CPT codes for insertion of these devices.

There is a new HCPCS code for the Propel device

S1090: Mometasone furoate sinus implant, 370 micrograms.

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

State or federal mandates (e.g., FEP) may dictate that all FDA-approved devices, drugs, or biologics may not be considered investigational, and thus use of these devices may be assessed only on the basis of their medical necessity.


This policy was created in July 2012 with literature review covering the period of January 2000 through June 2012.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are important in this area in order to adequately compare spacers and stents to alternative treatment regimens and to minimize the effects of confounders on outcomes. Case series and trials without control groups offer little in the way of relevant evidence, as improvement in symptoms is expected post-endoscopic sinus surgery (ESS) and because there are multiple clinical and treatment variables which may confound outcomes.

The most relevant comparison for sinus spacers and stents is unclear because there is not a standardized optimal postoperative treatment regimen. A concern with controlled trials is that the control arm may not be treated with optimal intensity, thereby leading to a bias in favor of the device. An example of this is a study design that compares a steroid-eluting stent with a non-steroid-eluting stent. This design will primarily evaluate the efficacy of steroids when delivered by the device, but will not evaluate the efficacy of a stent itself. If the control group does not receive topical or oral steroids postoperatively, then this might constitute undertreatment in the control group and result in a bias favoring the treatment group. Another concern is for the comparison of efficacy of a drug with the efficacy of a drug delivery system. For example, if a steroid-eluting spacer is compared to a control of saline irrigation alone, then it will be difficult to separate the efficacy of the drug itself (steroids) from drug delivery system (stent).


The literature consists of a few, small randomized trials, single-arm case series, and systematic reviews of these studies.

Randomized, controlled trials

There are two small RCTs of the Propel™ sinus implant. (7, 8) The two Propel™ trials are of similar design and both are sponsored by the manufacturer (Intersect ENT™, Palo Alto, CA.). Both compare an implant that is steroid-eluting versus an identical implant that is not steroid-eluting. Thus these trials test the value of drug delivery via a stent, but do not test the value of a stent itself versus treatment without a stent.

Murr et al. (8) The first RCT of this implant was published in 2011. A total of 38 patients with refractory chronic rhinosinusitis were included in the efficacy evaluation, and an additional 5 patients were enrolled for a safety evaluation. An intra-patient control design was used, meaning that each patient received a drug-eluting stent on one side and a non-drug-eluting stent on the other via random assignment. Patients were not permitted to use topical or oral steroids for 30 days following the procedure. A 14-day course of antibiotics was given to all patients. The primary endpoint was the degree of inflammation recorded on follow-up endoscopy at day 21 post-procedure, as scored by a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS). There were also semi-quantitative grading performed for polypoid changes, middle turbinate position, and adhesions/synechiae. The clinicians recording the outcomes were not blinded to treatment assignment. One patient withdrew prior to study completion.

The difference in inflammation scores at 21 days was significant in favor of the steroid-eluting group. The estimated difference in scores from graphical representation was approximately 18 units on the 0-100 VAS scale. The percent of patients having polypoid changes was 18.4% in the steroid-eluting group versus 36.8% in the non-steroid-eluting group (p=0.039). Adhesions were also significantly less common in the steroid-eluting group (5.3% vs. 21.1%, p=0.03). There were no significant differences in the appearance or position of the middle turbinate.

Advance II trial. (7) The Advance II trial was an RCT of the Propel™ sinus implant for 105 patients with chronic rhinosinusitis refractory to medical management. This study also used an intra-patient control design with each patient receiving a drug-eluting stent on one side and a non-drug-eluting stent on the other via random assignment. Patients were not permitted to use topical or oral steroids for 30 days following the procedure. A 14-day course of antibiotics was given to all patients. The primary efficacy outcome was reduction in the need for postoperative interventions at day 30 following the procedure. A panel of 3 independent experts, who were blinded to treatment assignment and clinical information, viewed the endoscopy results and determined whether an intervention was indicated. The primary safety endpoint was the absence of clinically significant increased ocular pressure through day 90.

There were 3 patients lost to follow-up (2.9%), and 9 patients (8.6%) could not be evaluated because the video of the endoscopy could not be graded. Two patients had the device removed within 30 days of placement. Of the remaining patients, the need for postoperative intervention by expert judgment was found in 33.3% of patients in the steroid-eluting arm versus 46.9% in the non-steroid-eluting arm (p=0.028). According to the judgments of the clinical investigators, who were not blinded to treatment assignment, intervention was required in 21.9% of the steroid-eluting group and 31.4% of the non-steroid-eluting group (p=0.068). The reduction in interventions was primarily driven by a 52% reduction in lysis of adhesions (p=0.005). The primary safety hypothesis was met, as there were no cases of clinically significant increases in ocular pressure recorded over the 90-day period following the procedure.

Non-randomized studies

The ADVANCE study (9) was a prospective, multicenter single-arm trial of 50 patients who were scheduled to undergo ESS. The endpoints evaluated on follow-up endoscopies were the degree of inflammation scored on a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) and semiquantitative grading for polypoid changes, middle turbinate position, and adhesions. By day 7 post-procedure, the inflammation scores were in the “minimal” range and remained there for the rest of the time points. At one month, polypoid lesions were present in 10% of patients, adhesions in 1.1%, and middle turbinate lateralization in 4.4%. Scores on the Sino-Nasal Outcome Test-22 and the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index improved significantly in the first month post-procedure.

A case series was published of 23 patients with refractory rhinosinusitis who underwent ESS and were treated postoperatively with the Relieva Stratus Microflow Spacer Device infused with triamcinolone. (10) Over a period of 6 months, there were significant improvements on multiple sinus-related outcome measures such as the Sino-Nasal Outcome Test-20 and the Lund-McKay CT (computed tomography) scan scores. There were no significant intraoperative or postoperative complications reported.

Systematic reviews

A systematic review of early postoperative care following ESS was published in 2011. (11) This review evaluated a number of different postoperative regimens, including stents/spacers. The review included one RCT by Cote et al. and 2 non-randomized studies. Some of the devices included in these studies are considered middle meatal spacers and not included in the review of evidence for this policy. The overall level of evidence was judged as B (RCT with limitations). The authors concluded that topical steroids delivered by the “non-standard” route required further study and that the results of current studies could not be extrapolated to larger populations. Based on this evidence, they did not recommend use of stents/spacers but considered them an “option” for postoperative care.

Han et al. performed a meta-analysis of the 2 published RCTs of the Propel™ implant, (12) both of which compared a steroid-eluting stent with a non-steroid-eluting stent. The results of the 2 RCTs were combined at the patient level, with re-analysis of the endoscopy videos by a panel of 3 independent ear, nose, and throat experts. The combined results were that the steroid-eluting device reduced postoperative interventions by 35% (p=0.0008), reduced lysis of adhesions by 51% (p=0.0016), and reduced the need for oral steroids by 46% (p<0.0001).

Clinical Input Received through Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

In response to requests, input was received through 1 Physician Specialty Society and 3 Academic Medical Centers while this policy was under review in 2012. While the various Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers may collaborate with and make recommendations during this process, through the provision of appropriate reviewers, input received does not represent an endorsement or position statement by the Physician Specialty Societies or Academic Medical Centers, unless otherwise noted. Input was received from 4 academic medical centers. Input overall was mixed, without consensus achieved among the respondents. Some reviewers expressed support for use of these devices post-ESS. Reviewers who supported use cited the RCTs reviewed in this policy as the main source of evidence. Other reviewers did not support use in general following ESS, but considered that a subset of patients may benefit, but there was no consensus on what population this subgroup would include.


Implantable sinus stents/spacers have been used post-ESS with the intent of maintaining patency of the sinuses and delivering local steroids. Two RCTs have compared the Propel™ device with steroids to the same device without steroids and reported that the steroid-eluting device reduced postoperative inflammation, reduced the need for oral steroids, and reduced the need for postoperative re-interventions. These trials primarily evaluate the efficacy of topical steroids when delivered by an implanted device, but do not evaluate the efficacy of the device itself versus standard care. The improvements reported in these trials reflect the impact of local steroids, which were withheld in the control arm, as well as the impact of the spacer device itself.

This evidence is insufficient to determine whether sinus spacers and stents improve outcomes when used postoperatively following ESS. Further RCTs are needed that compare the devices to optimal postoperative care without the device to determine whether they can improve postoperative outcomes for patients undergoing ESS.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements


Medicare National Coverage



    1. Rudmik L Mace J, Mechor B. Effect of a dexamethasone SinuFoam™ middle meatal spacer on endoscopic sinus surgery outcomes: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol 2012; 2(3):248-51.
    2. Berlucchi M, Castelnuovo P, Vincenzi A et al. Endoscopic outcomes of resorbable nasal packing after functional endoscopic sinus surgery: a multicenter prospective randomized controlled study. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2009; 266(6):839-45.
    3. Cote DW, Wright ED. Triamcinolone-impregnated nasal dressing following endoscopic sinus surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Laryngoscope 2010; 120(6):1269-73.
    4. Freeman SR, Sivayoham ES, Jepson K et al. A preliminary randomised controlled trial evaluating the efficacy of saline douching following endoscopic sinus surgery. Clin Otolaryngol 2008; 33(5):462-5.
    5. Rotenberg BW, Zhang I, Arra I et al. Postoperative care for Samter's triad patients undergoing endoscopic sinus surgery: a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial. Laryngoscope 2011; 121(12):2702-5.
    6. Lee JM, Grewal A. Middle meatal spacers for the prevention of synechiae following endoscopic sinus surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol 2012 [Epub ahead of print].
    7. Marple BF, Smith TL, Han JK et al. Advance II: a prospective, randomized study assessing safety and efficacy of bioabsorbable steroid-releasing sinus implants. Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. 2012; 146(6):1004-11.
    8. Murr AH, Smith TL, Hwang PH et al. Safety and efficacy of a novel bioabsorbable, steroid-eluting sinus stent. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol 2011; 1(1):23-32.
    9. Forwith KD, Chandra RK, Yun PT et al. ADVANCE: a multisite trial of bioabsorbable steroid-eluting sinus implants. Laryngoscope 2011; 121(11):2473-80.
    10. Catalona PJ TM, Weiss R, Rimash T. The MicroFlow Spacer: a drug-eluting stent for the ethmoid sinus. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2011; 63(3):258.
    11. Rudmik L, Soler ZM, Orlandi RR et al. Early postoperative care following endoscopic sinus surgery: an evidence-based review with recommendations. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol 2011; 1(6):417-30.
    12. Han JK, Marple BF, Smith TL. Effect of steroid-releasing sinus implants on postoperative medical and surgical interventions: an efficacy meta-analysis. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol 2012; 2(4):271-9.




CPT    No specific code
ICD-9 Diagnosis   Investigational for all relevent diagnoses
HCPCS S1090 Mometasone furoate sinus implant, 370 micrograms

ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/14)

  Investigational for all relevent diagnoses
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/14)   Not applicable. ICD-1-PCS are used for inpatient procedures only.


Nasal sinus implant 

Policy History





Add to Surgery section

Policy created with literature review. Policy statement created that sinuses/spacers are investigational for use following endoscopic sinus surgery.

11/08/12 Replace Policy Policy updated with results of clinical vetting, no change to policy statement.