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MP 7.01.138 Interspinous Fixation (Fusion) Devices

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
September 2012
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/9:2014
  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.



Contemporary models of interspinous fixation devices have evolved from spinous process wiring with bone blocks and early device designs (e.g., Wilson plate, Meurig-Williams system, Daab plate). The newer devices range from paired plates with teeth to U-shaped devices with wings that are attached to the spinous process. They are intended to be an alternative to pedicle screw and rod constructs to aid in the stabilization of the spine with interbody fusion. Interspinous fixation devices are placed under direct visualization, while screw and rod systems may be placed either under direct visualization or percutaneously. Use of an interspinous fixation device in combination with a unilateral pedicle screw system has also been proposed. Interspinous fixation devices are not intended for stand-alone use.

Interspinous fixation (fusion) devices contrast with interspinous distraction devices (spacers), which are used alone for decompression and are typically not fixed to the spinous process (see policy No. 7.01.107). In addition, whereas interspinous distraction devices may use dynamic stabilization, interspinous fixation devices are rigid. However, the fixation devices might also be used to distract the spinous processes and decrease lordosis. Thus, the fixation devices might be used off-label without interbody fusion as decompression (distraction) devices in patients with spinal stenosis. If fixation devices are used alone as a spacer, there is a risk of spinous process fracture.

For use in combination with fusion, it is proposed that interspinous fixation systems are less invasive and present fewer risks than pedicle or facet screws. However, while biomechanical studies indicate that interspinous fixation devices may be similar to pedicle screw-rod constructs in limiting the range of flexion-extension, they may be less effective than bilateral pedicle screw-rod fixation for limiting axial rotation and lateral bending. (1) There is a potential for a negative impact on the interbody cage and bone graft due to focal kyphosis resulting from the interspinous device. There is also a potential for spinous process fracture. Given these uncertainties, studies are needed that compare health outcomes between interspinous fixation devices and pedicle screw-rod fixation.

Regulatory Status

The following interspinous fixation devices have received clearance to market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This may not be an exhaustive list.

  • Affix™ (NuVasive)
  • Aileron™ (Life Spine)
  • Aspen™ (Lanx)
  • Axle™ (X-Spine)
  • BacFuse® (Pioneer Surgical)
  • BridgePoint™ (Alphatec)
  • coflex-F® (Paradigm Spine)
  • Inspan™ (Spine Frontier)
  • Interbridge InterspinousPosterioe Fixation System (LDR Spine)
  • PrimaLOK™ (OsteoMed)
  • Octave™ (Life Spine)
  • Spire™ (Medtronic)
  • SP-Fix™ (Globus)
  • Aip Mis Interspinous Fusion System

Interspinous fixation devices are intended to be used as an adjunct to interbody fusion. For example, the indication for use of the coflex-F implant

“is a posterior, non-pedicle supplemental fixation device intended for use with an interbody cage as an adjunct to fusion at a single level in the lumbar spine (L1-S1). It is intended for attachment to the spinous processes for the purpose of achieving stabilization to promote fusion in patients with degenerative disc disease – defined as back pain of discogenic origin with degeneration of the disc confirmed by history and radiographic studies – with up to Grade 1 spondylolisthesis.” Use of an interspinous fixation device for a stand-alone procedure would be considered off-label.

FDA Product code: PEK


Interspinous fixation (fusion) devices are considered investigational for any indication, including but not limited to use:

  • in combination with interbody fusion, or
  • alone for decompression in patients with spinal stenosis. 

Policy Guidelines  

Clinical input has identified potential exceptions where the devices might be considered medically necessary, such as patients with small pedicles where pedicle screws could not be safely placed.

There are no specific CPT codes for insertion of these devices. The following codes might be used:

+22840 Posterior non-segmental instrumentation (e.g., Harrington rod technique, pedicle fixation across 1 interspace, atlantoaxial transarticular screw fixation, sublaminar wiring at C1, facet screw fixation) (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

+22851 Application of intervertebral biomechanical device(s) (e.g., synthetic cage(s), methylmethacrylate) to vertebral defect or interspace (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure).

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 these devices may be assessed only on the basis of their medical necessity.


This policy was created with a search of the literature through July 2012 and updated periodically using the MEDLINE database. The most recent update was performed though July 28, 2014.

Several studies were identified that evaluated the biomechanics of interspinous fixation devices, but no English language publications were found that evaluated clinical outcomes with use of these devices when used in combination with fusion.

Use of the Aspen interspinous fixation device as a stand-alone interspinous spacer was reported in a prospective series of 6 cases (an additional 32 patients received the X-stop interspinous distraction device, which is addressed in policy No. 7.01.107). (2) The study population consisted of consecutive patients with a primary diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis with pain that was relieved by sitting or lumbar flexion. Of the 6 patients implanted with the Aspen device, 2 (33%) had spinous process fractures observable on computed tomography (CT). Out of the entire group of 38 patients, 55% of those with spondylolisthesis (n=20) had a fracture within 6 months of surgery. None of the 18 patients without spondylolisthesis experienced a fracture. In 2013, use of an interspinous fusion plate was reported in a series of 4 patients in conjunction with surgery for recurrent lumbar disc herniation.(3)

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials
An online search of in July 2014 found the following ongoing trials:

  • NCT01016314 is an industry-sponsored phase 4, multicenter, randomized, open-label comparison of the Aspen Spinous Process System versus pedicle screw fixation in patients undergoing lumbar fusion. The study has an estimated enrollment of 156 patients with completion
    expected December 2015.
  • NCT01019057 is an industry-sponsored study of interlaminar lumbar instrumented fusion (ILIF™) in 77 patients undergoing posterior decompression followed with an allograft spacer, spinous process fixation plate (Affix™), and a biologic. The study was completed in June 2014.

Clinical Input Received through Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

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.

In response to requests, input was received from 3 physician specialty societies (2 reviewers) and 2 academic medical centers while this policy was under review in 2012. The input was mixed. Some cases where the devices might be medically necessary were noted, such as patients with small pedicles where pedicle screws could not be safely placed.

Summary of Evidence

Interspinous fixation (fusion) devices are being developed to aid in the stabilization of the spine. They are being evaluated as alternatives to pedicle screw and rod constructs in combination with interbody fusion. Interspinous fixation devices are also being evaluated for stand-alone use in patients with spinal stenosis. There is a lack of evidence on the efficacy of interspinous fixation devices, both for use in combination with interbody fusion and for use as a stand-alone procedure. Randomized controlled trials are needed that evaluate health outcomes following use of interspinous fixation (fusion) devices in comparison with the established standard of pedicle screw-rod fixation. Clinical trials are also needed to evaluate these devices when used alone for decompression. Because of the lack of evidence and the lack of consensus from clinical vetting, interspinous fixation devices are considered investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

The North American Spine Society (NASS) issued a coverage position on the use of interspinous devices with lumbar fusion.(4) NASS recommends that interspinous fixation with fusion for stabilization is currently not indicated as an alternative to pedicle screw fixation with lumbar fusion procedures.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations
Use of interspinous fixation devices is not a preventive service.

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. Wu JC, Mummaneni PV. Using lumbar interspinous anchor with transforaminal lumbar interbody fixation. World Neurosurg. May 2010;73(5):471-472. PMID 20920928
  2. Kim DH, Shanti N, Tantorski ME, et al. Association between degenerative spondylolisthesis and spinous process fracture after interspinous process spacer surgery. Spine J. Jun 2012;12(6):466-472. PMID 22622239
  3. Oppenheim JS, Mills J. Recurrent lumbar disc herniation treated with interspinous fusion and instrumentation: a case series. Surg Technol Int. Sep 2013;23:269-272. PMID 23686800
  4. North American Spine Society (NASS). NASS coverage policy recommendations: Interspinous fixation with fusion.
    Accessed July, 2014.  




CPT    No specific codes (see policy guidelines)
ICD-9 Diagnosis   Investigational for all relevent diagnoses

ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15)

  Investigational for all relevent diagnoses
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.


Fusion, interspinous
Fixation, interspinous

Policy History   






New policy;Add to Surgery section

Policy created with literature review through July 2012; considered investigational

9/12/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through July 30, 2013; policy statement unchanged
9/11/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through July 28, 2014; references 3-4 added; policy statement unchanged