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MP 7.01.75 Cryosurgical Ablation of Primary or Metastatic Liver Tumors

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/12:2014
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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.



Hepatic tumors can arise either as primary liver cancer or by metastasis to the liver from other tissues. Local therapy for hepatic metastasis is indicated only when there is no extrahepatic disease, which rarely occurs for patients with primary cancers other than colorectal carcinoma or certain neuroendocrine malignancies. At present, surgical resection with tumor-free margins or liver transplantation represent the only treatments with curative potential. For liver metastases from colorectal cancer, postsurgical adjuvant chemotherapy has been reported to decrease recurrence rates and prolong time to recurrence. However, most hepatic tumors are unresectable at diagnosis, due either to their anatomic location, size, number of lesions, or underlying liver reserve. Combined systemic and hepatic arterial chemotherapy may increase disease-free intervals for patients with hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer but apparently is not beneficial for those with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma.

Various locoregional therapies for unresectable liver tumors are being studied: cryosurgical ablation (cryosurgery), radiofrequency ablation, laser ablation, transhepatic artery embolization/ chemoembolization, microwave coagulation, and percutaneous ethanol injection. Ablation occurs in tissue that has been frozen by at least 3 mechanisms: (1) formation of ice crystals within cells, thereby disrupting membranes and interrupting cellular metabolism among other processes; (2) coagulation of blood, thereby interrupting blood flow to the tissue, in turn causing ischemia and cell death; and (3) induction of apoptosis (cell death).

Recent studies report experience with cryosurgical and other ablative methods used in combination with subtotal resection and/or procedures such as transarterial chemoembolization.



Cryosurgical ablation of either primary or metastatic tumors in the liver is investigational.

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The policy was initially developed following a 2000 TEC Assessment that found insufficient data to permit conclusions regarding the effect of cryosurgery on health outcomes of patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), cholangiocarcinoma, or liver metastases.(1) The policy has been updated on a regular basis with literature searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent review was conducted for the period of November 12, 2013, through November 17, 2014. The findings of the literature reviews are summarized next. 

Four patient groups have been treated with hepatic cryosurgery: those with primary HCC, liver metastases from colorectal cancer (CRC), neuroendocrine tumors metastatic to the liver, and liver metastases from other noncolorectal cancers.


In 2014, Wang et al reported on a randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing cryoablation with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in 360 patients with HCC.(2) One-hundred eighty treatment-naïve patients with Child-Pugh class A or B cirrhosis and 1 or 2 HCC lesions 4 cm or less and without metastasis were randomly assigned to each treatment group. Of the 360 patients enrolled, 310 patients were ineligible for surgical resection due to having significant portal hypertension. The median follow-up for the cryoablation group was 25 months (range, 8-64 months) and 25 months (range, 5-65 months) for the RFA group, (p=0.767). At 1, 2, and 3 years, local tumor progression rates were 3%, 7%, and 7% for cryoablation and 9%, 11%, and 11% for RFA, respectively (p=0.043). Overall survival (OS) rates at 1, 3, and 5 years for
cryoablation were 97%, 67%, and 40%, and 97%, 66%, and 38% for RFA, respectively (p=0.747). Tumor-free survival rates at 1, 3, and 5 years were 89%, 54%, and 35% in the cryoablation group and 84%, 50%, and 34% in RFA group, respectively (p=0.628). Major complications were experienced in 7 patients (3.9%) following cryoablation and in 6 patients (3.3%) following RFA (p=0.776).

Authors of a 2009 Cochrane review of cryotherapy for HCC reported finding 2 prospective cohort studies and 2 retrospective studies in their literature search but no RCTs or quasi-RCTs.(3) Only 1 study could be considered for the assessment of benefit. In that study,(4) results were stratified according to both the type of hepatic malignancy (primary or secondary) and the intervention group (percutaneous cryotherapy or percutaneous RFA). Sixty-four patients were treated based on random availability of probes; 31 patients received cryotherapy and 33 received RFA. Of all patients treated, 26 (84%) of 31 who had cryotherapy and 24 (73%) of 33 who had RFA developed a local recurrence, all within 1 year. The distribution of primary cancers was not specified. Among the HCC patients, rates of initial tumor ablation were similar after cryosurgery or RFA (65% and 76%, respectively), but local recurrences were more frequent after cryosurgery (38%) than after RFA (17%). Survival at 1 year did not differ by ablative technique (cryosurgery, 66%; RFA, 61%). The study did not include controls managed with an established alternative. Authors of the Cochrane review concluded that there is no evidence to recommend or refute cryotherapy in the treatment of patients with HCC and that RCTs may be useful.

In 2011, Yang et al reported on a series of 300 patients treated between 2003 and 2006 with percutaneous argon-helium cryoablation for HCC.(5) Complete tumor ablation occurred in 185 tumors in 135 patients with mean tumor diameter of 5.6 (0.8) cm, while 223 tumors in 165 patients with a mean tumor diameter of 7.2 (2.8) cm were incompletely ablated (p<0.001). Serious complications occurred in 19 patients (6.3%) and included liver hemorrhage in 5 patients, cryoshock syndrome in 6 patients, gastric bleeding in 4 patients, liver abscess in 1 patient, and intestinal fistula in 1 patient. Liver failure resulted in the death of 2 patients. Patients with incomplete ablation received additional treatment with transarterial catheter embolization or a multikinase inhibitor (sorafenib). During the median follow-up of 36.7 months (range, 6-63 months), local tumor recurrence was 31%. Larger tumors and tumor location were significantly related to tumor recurrence (p=0.029 and 0.037, respectively). OS was 80% at 1 year, 45% at 2 years, and 32% at 3 years.

Clavien et al(6) treated 15 patients with cirrhosis and a single liver lesion (biopsy-proved HCC or suspicious mass on imaging) using open cryosurgery after transhepatic arterial chemoembolization. In all patients, cryosurgery was offered because the tumor was “unresectable or surgical resection was not thought to be feasible because of tumor location or size, or patient comorbidity.” Actuarial survival rate of these patients after cryosurgery was 79% at 5 years. The study did not include a control group.

In a 2009 study, Zhou et al divided 124 patients with primary nonresectable HCC into  early, middle, and advanced stage groups by Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer staging classification.(7) After argon-helium cryoablation, serum level of α-fetoprotein was reduced in 76 (82.6%), and 205 (92.3%) of 222 tumor lesions were diminished or unchanged. Median survival time was 31.35 months in the early stage, 17.4 months in the middle stage, and 6.8 months in the late stage groups. As of April 2008, 14 patients survived and 110 had died. To determine risk factors that predict metastasis and recurrence, Wang et al studied a series of 156 patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV)‒related HCC and tumors smaller than 5 cm in diameter who underwent curative cryoablation.(8) One-, 2-, and 3-year OS rates were 92%, 82%, and 64%,
respectively, and 1-, 2-, and 3-year recurrence-free survival (RFS) rates were 72%, 56%, and 43%, respectively. The multivariate analysis showed that Child-Pugh class and expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in HCC tissues could be used as independent prognostic factors for OS. The expression of VEGF in HCC tissues and HBV basal core promoter mutations were independent prognostic factors for RFS.

In a nonrandomized comparative study, Xu et al evaluated outcomes of cryosurgery alone and transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) followed by cryosurgery in 420 patients with nonresectable HCC.(9) Patients in the sequential TACE-cryosurgery group tended to have larger tumors and a greater number of tumors than patients in the cryoablation-alone group. Tumors larger than 10 cm were seen only in the sequential group. During mean follow-up of 42 months (range, 24-70), the local
recurrence rate at the ablated area was 17% for all patients, 11% in the sequential group, and 23% in the cryosurgery-alone group (p=0.001). One- and 2-year survival rates were similar in both treatment groups (p=0.69); however, 5-year survival rates were 39% in the sequential group and 23% in the cryosurgery-alone group (p=0.001). Eighteen patients with large HCC (ie, >5 cm) survived for more than 5 years after sequential TACE-cryosurgery, while no patient with large HCC and cryosurgery alone survived more than 5 years. The incidence of hepatic bleeding was higher in the cryosurgery-alone group. The authors conclude that precryosurgical TACE may increase the efficacy of cryoablation and reduce adverse effects.

Neuroendocrine Cancer Liver Metastases

Neuroendocrine tumors are relatively slow-growing malignancies (mean survival time, 5-10 years) that commonly metastasize to the liver. As with other cancers, the most successful treatment of hepatic metastasis is resection with tumor-free margins, but treatment benefits for a slow-growing tumor must be weighed against the morbidity and mortality of major surgery.(10) The intent of cryosurgery in these cases is to minimize or eliminate symptoms caused by liver metastases while avoiding the complications of open surgery.

A 2009 Cochrane review evaluated the benefits and harms of liver resection versus other treatments in patients with resectable liver metastases from gastro-entero-pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.(11) Trials comparing liver resection (alone or in combination with RFA or cryoablation) versus other interventions (chemotherapy, hormonotherapy, or immunotherapy) and studies comparing liver resection and thermal ablation (RFA or cryoablation) were sought. Authors of the Cochrane review reported finding neither an RCT suitable for review nor any quasi-randomized, cohort, or case-control studies “that could inform meaningfully.” No analysis was performed, and the authors refer to only RFA in their discussion, noting that RF is not suitable for large tumors (ie, >5-6 cm) and that neuroendocrine liver metastases are frequently larger than that. The authors conclude that further randomized trials comparing surgical resection and RFA in selected patients may be appropriate.

In 2012, Saxena et al reported on a retrospective review of 40 patients treated with cryoablation and surgical resection for hepatic metastases from neuroendocrine cancer.(12) The median period of follow-up was 61 months with a range of 1 to 162 months. One death occurred within 30 days of treatment. No other complications were reported. Median survival was 95 months, and the rate of survival was 92%, 73%, 61% and 40% at 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year survival, respectively.

In 2001, Chung et al reported on outcomes of cryosurgery for hepatic metastases from neuroendocrine cancer.(13) This study used cytoreduction (resection, cryosurgery, RFA, or a combination) and adjuvant therapy (octreotide, chemotherapy, radiation, interferon-α) in 31 patients with neuroendocrine metastases to the liver and “progressive symptoms refractory to conventional therapy.” Following treatment, symptoms were eliminated in 87% of patients; median symptom-free interval was 60 months with octreotide and 16 months with alternatives. Because outcomes were not reported separately for different cytoreductive techniques, it was not possible to compare the benefits of cryosurgery with those of other cytoreductive approaches or octreotide alone.

Liver Metastases From Other Cancers Including CRC

A 2008 Cochrane review was undertaken to compare outcomes of resection of CRC liver metastases to no intervention or other modalities of intervention, including RFA and cryosurgery.(14) Only RCTs reporting on patients who had curative surgery for adenocarcinoma of the colon or rectum and who had been diagnosed with liver metastases and who were eligible for liver resection were considered. Only 1 randomized trial by Korpan et al was identified, a 1997 study from the Ukraine comparing surgical resection and cryosurgery in 123 subjects, 82 of whom had liver metastases from primary CRCs and the remainder who had metastases from other primary tumors.(15) Survival outcomes were not provided by type of cryogenic procedure or primary tumor site. The authors of the Cochrane review concluded that local ablative therapies are probably useful but that they need to be further evaluated in an RCT. A subsequent 2013 Cochrane review examined cryoablation for liver metastases from various sites, primarily colorectal.(16) Only the RCT by Korpan et al,(15) included in the 2008 Cochrane review, met inclusion criteria for the 2013 review. The Korpan study was considered to have a high risk of bias, and the reviewers found the available evidence was insufficient to determine whether there were any benefits with cryoablation over conventional surgery or no intervention. The reviewers recommended cryoablation only be used in RCTs.

In 2011, Pathak et al reported on a systematic review of ablative therapies for colorectal liver metastases.(17) Included in the review were 26 nonrandomized studies on cryoablation. The authors reported local recurrence rates in the studies reviewed ranged from 12% to 39%. Survival rates ranged from 46% to 92% at 1 year, 8% to 60% at 3 years, and 0% to 44% at 5 years. Mean survival rates at 1, 3, and 5 years were 84%, 37%, and 17%, respectively. Major complications ranged from 7% to 66%. Cryoshock was indicated to be of major concern.

In a 2002 review of the literature, Sotsky and Ravikumar(18) summarized the results of 27 studies reporting outcomes of cryosurgery in more than 1000 patients. In studies of only patients with CRC, outcomes diverged markedly (median survival range, 18 to >33 months), liver recurrences were frequent (20%-50%), and significant procedure-related complications were common.(19) While the review’s authors asserted that cryosurgery is an established procedure, the data reported in the studies cited in the review appear inconclusive, because baseline characteristics of study populations were heterogeneous, and published outcomes were variable and inconsistently reported.

In 2012, Ng et al reported on a retrospective review of 293 patients treated between 1990 and 2009 for colorectal liver metastases with cryoablation with or without surgical resection.(20) Perioperative death occurred in 10 patients (3%) and included liver abscess sepsis in 4 patients, cardiac events unrelated to treatment in 3 patients, and 1 case each of dilated cardiomyopathy, cerebrovascular event, and multiorgan failure. Median follow-up was 28 months (range, 0.1-220 months). OS was 87%, 41.8%, 24.2%, and 13.3% at 1, 3, 5, and 10 years, respectively.

A Phase 1 comparison of single versus dual cryoprobe configurations in 15 patients given multiple treatments (25 single-probe, 14 dual-probe) did not report long-term outcomes or health benefits.(21) Three studies administered cryosurgery as a planned or incidental adjunct to surgery in patients with hepatic tumors.(22-24) Two of these were retrospective studies,(22,24) and all 3 pooled results across patients with heterogeneous disease characteristics (eg, tumors of varied numbers and location). A prospective study23 did not adequately describe criteria used to select patients for cryosurgery. Another report was a “retrospective review of prospectively collected data” on 172 patients treated with cryosurgery with (n=157) or without (n=25) postprocedure 5-fluorouracil or 5-fluorodeoxyuridine as hepatic arterial chemotherapy (HAC), and with (n=80) or without (n=92) resection.(25) The authors concluded that the results of cryosurgery in their study (25% survival at 5 years) are encouraging but may partly reflect the effects of HAC, completeness (or, rather, incompleteness) of cryosurgery in some patient groups, and patient selection.

Niu et al reported on an analysis of data collected prospectively for patients who underwent hepatic resection for metastatic CRC with or without cryoablation from 1990 to 2006.(26) A decision about resectability was determined at the time of surgery. Patients who had resections and cryoablation were more likely to have bilobar disease (85% vs 27%, respectively) and to have 6 or more lesions (35% vs 3%, respectively). In addition, 73% of this combined treatment group received HAC compared with 32%
in the resection-only group. Median follow-up was 25 months (range, 1-124 months). The 30-day perioperative mortality was 3.1%. For the resection group, the median survival was 34 months, with 1-, 3-,and 5-year survival values of 88%, 47%, and 32%, respectively. The median survival for the resection/cryotherapy group was 29 months, with 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival values of 84%, 43%, and 24%, respectively (p=0.206). The overall recurrence rates were 66% for resection only, but 78% forresection/cryotherapy. Five factors were independently associated with an improved survival: absence of extrahepatic disease at diagnosis, well- or moderately differentiated CRC, largest lesion size being 4 cm or less, a postoperative carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) of 5 ng/mL or less, and absence of liver recurrence. While the recurrence rates between groups were not different in this study, it is not clear how representative the patients who had resection/cryotherapy are of the total potential patients. The comparability of the 2 groups is uncertain, especially given the differential use of HAC. In this study, a direct comparison was not made to chemotherapy. Finally, the 16-year duration of the study raises concerns about intercurrent changes that could have had an impact on the results.

Seifert et al reported on a series of patients with colorectal liver metastases that were treated from 1996-2002.(27) In this series, 168 patients underwent resection and 55 had cryosurgical ablation (CSA) (in 25 of these patients, it was combined with resection.) Twenty-nine percent (16/55) of the ablation group had prior liver resection compared with only 5% in the resection group. Twenty percent of both groups had extrahepatic disease at the time of surgery. With a median follow-up of 23 months, median and 5-year survival rates following resection and cryotherapy were comparable, with 29 months and 29 months and 23% and 26%, respectively. However, the median disease-free survival (DFS) times and 5-year DFS rates following resection were superior at 10 months and 19%, respectively, for resection compared with 6 months and 12%, respectively, for cryotherapy. Overall recurrence was 61% in the resection group and 76% in the cryotherapy group, and liver recurrence was 45% and 71%, respectively. Limitations of this study include the small sample size, limited follow-up, and noncomparability of the groups.

Ruers et al reported on a consecutive series of 201 CRC patients, without extrahepatic disease, treated between 1995 and 2004 and who underwent laparotomy for surgical treatment of liver metastases.(28)

These patients were prospectively followed up for survival and quality of life. At laparotomy, 3 groups were identified: patients in whom radical resection of metastases proved feasible, patients in whom resection was not feasible and received local ablative therapy (with or without resection), and patients in whom resection or local ablation was not feasible for technical reasons and who received systemic chemotherapy. The study reported that patients in the chemotherapy and local ablation groups were comparable for all prognostic variables tested. For the local ablation group, OS at 2 and 5 years was 56% and 27%, respectively (median, 31 months; n=45), for the chemotherapy group, 51% and 15%, respectively (median, 26 months; n=39; p=0.252). After resection, these figures were 83% and 51%, respectively (median, 61 months; n=117; p<0.001). The median DFS after local ablation was 9 months. The authors concluded that although OS of local ablation versus chemotherapy did not reach statistical significance, the median DFS of 9 months suggested a beneficial effect of local tumor ablation. However, given the heterogeneity of the groups in this study, it is very difficult to compare outcomes among the groups. In addition, this study used both cryotherapy and RFA for local ablation, and results are reported for the combined group.

In a relatively small study, Joosten et al reported on 58 patients with unresectable colorectal liver metastases where CSA or RFAs were performed in patients not eligible for resection.(29) Median follow-up was 26 and 25 months for CSA and RFA, respectively. One- and 2-year survival rates were 76% and 61% for CSA and 93% and 75% for RFA, respectively. In a lesion-based analysis, the local recurrence rate was 9% after CSA and 6% after RFA. Complication rates were 30% and 11% after CSA and RFA,
respectively (p=0.052). While the small size of this study makes drawing conclusions difficult, it does raise questions about the relative efficacy of both techniques.

Kornprat et al reported on thermoablation combined with resection in the treatment of hepatic metastasis from CRC.(30) In this series, from January 1, 1998, to December 31, 2003, 665 patients with colorectal metastases underwent hepatic resection. Of these, 39 (5.9%) had additional intraoperative thermoablative procedures (19 RFA, 20 CSA). The total morbidity rate was 41% (16 of 39). No RFArelated complications occurred; however, 3 patients developed an abscess at cryoablation sites. The median DFS was 12.3 months (range, 8.4-16.2 months). Overall, the local in situ recurrence rate according to number of ablated tumors was 14% for RFA and 12% for CSA. Tumor size correlated directly with recurrence (p=0.02) in RFA-treated lesions. In the comment section of this article, the authors indicate that an ongoing controversy is whether resection of extensive disease combined with chemotherapy is better than either treatment alone.

Xu et al reported on a series of 326 patients with nonresectable hepatic colorectal metastases treated with 526 percutaneous cryosurgery procedures.(31) At 3 months posttreatment, CEA levels decreased to normal range in 197 (77.5%) of patients who had elevated markers before cryosurgery. Among 280 patients who had computed tomography follow-up, cryo-treated lesions showed complete response in 41 patients (14.6%), partial response in 115 (41.1%), stable disease in 68 (24.3%), and progressive disease in 56 (20%). During median follow-up of 32 months (range, 7-61 months), the recurrence rate was 47.2%. The recurrence rate at the cryo-treated site was 6.4% for all cases. During median follow-up of 36 months, the median survival of all patients was 29 months (range, 3-62 months). OS was 78%, 62%, 41%, 34%, and 23% at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years, respectively, after treatment. Patients with tumor size smaller than 3 cm, tumor in right lobe of liver, CEA levels less than 100 ng/dL and postcryosurgery TACE had higher survival rates.

Procedure-Related Complications

Cryosurgery is not a benign procedure. Treatment-related deaths occur in approximately 2% of study populations and are most often caused by cryoshock, liver failure, hemorrhage, pneumonia/sepsis, and acute myocardial infarction.(32) Clinically significant nonfatal complication rates in the reviewed studies ranged from 0% to 83% and were generally due to the same causes as treatment-related deaths. The likelihood of complications arising from cryosurgery may be predicted, in part, by the extent of the
procedure,(33) but much of the treatment-related morbidity and mortality reflect the generally poor health status of patients with advanced hepatic disease.

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials

An online search of on November 6, 2014, identified no active clinical trials on cryoablation for liver tumors.

Clinical Input Received From 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 2 physician specialty societies and 3 academic medical centers while this policy was under review in 2008. All reviewers supported use of CSA for liver tumors and, in general, cited the studies previously reviewed in the policy rationale. Some reviewers viewed this as one of several ablative techniques that could be used in these patients.

Summary of Evidence

Cryosurgical ablation involves the freezing of target tissues, most often by inserting into the tumor a probe through which coolant is circulated. Cryosurgical ablation can be performed as an open surgical technique or percutaneously or laparoscopically, typically with ultrasound guidance.

Most patients in published series were candidates for cryosurgery because of unresectable disease, due either to large number of metastases, inaccessible location (eg, near large vessels), or insufficient hepatic reserve to support resection. However, some of the studies included patients with resectable tumors, as well as patients with unresectable tumors. Furthermore some studies pooled results for mixed series of patients with liver metastases from various noncolorectal cancers (eg, breast, sarcoma, ovarian, testicular, pancreatic, esophageal, head and neck), despite the differing characteristics and prognoses of these malignancies. Few controlled studies were found and most had methodologic weaknesses including lack of randomization and noncomparable groups. In 1 randomized controlled trial comparing cryosurgery with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for hepatocellular carcinoma, rates of tumor progression, survival and complications were comparable between groups. However, further studies are needed to confirm these results. Therefore, published outcomes of cryosurgery are inconclusive. The recent literature provides little new information on cryosurgical techniques, and interest appears to be concentrated on RFA. Thus, cryoablation for primary or metastatic liver tumors is investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) indicates that ablative techniques may be used in the treatment of certain hepatic tumors. The guideline on hepatobiliary cancer includes cryoablation in a list of ablative techniques; however, the literature cited in the guideline reports on only RFA and ethanol ablation.(34)
The NCCN neuroendocrine guidelines indicate cryotherapy is an option for unresectable liver metastases.(35) the guideline on treatment of metastatic hepatic lesions for colon cancer indicates that ablative techniques may be considered alone or in conjunction with resection.(36) However, cryoablation is not listed anywhere in the guideline. The potential role of chemotherapy in converting unresectable to resectable hepatic lesions is also discussed.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has not addressed cryoablation of liver tumors.

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.


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  3. Awad T, Ghorlund K, Gluud C. Cryotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009(4):CD007611.
  4. Adam R, Hagopian EJ, Linhares M, et al. A comparison of percutaneous cryosurgery and percutaneous radiofrequency for unresectable hepatic malignancies. Arch Surg. 2002;137(12):1332-1339.
  5. Yang Y, Wang C, Lu Y, et al. Outcomes of ultrasound-guided percutaneous argon-helium cryoablation of hepatocellular carcinoma. J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Sci. Dec 21 2012;19(6):674-684. PMID 22187145
  6. Clavien PA, Kang KJ, Selzner N, et al. Cryosurgery after chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis. J Gastrointest Surg. 2002;6(1):95-101.
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  22. Gruenberger T, Jourdan JL, Zhao J, et al. Reduction in recurrence risk for involved or inadequate margins with edge cryotherapy after liver resection for colorectal metastases. Arch Surg. 2001;136(10):1154-1157.
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  26. Niu R, Yan TD, Zhu JC, et al. Recurrence and survival outcomes after hepatic resection with or without cryotherapy for liver metastases from colorectal carcinoma. Ann Surg Oncol. 2007;14(7):2078-2087.
  27. Seifert JK, Springer A, Baier P, et al. Liver resection or cryotherapy for colorectal liver metastases: a prospective case control study. Int J Colorectal Dis. 2005;20(6):507-520.
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  29. Joosten J, Jager G, Oyen W, et al. Cryosurgery and radiofrequency ablation for unresectable colorectal liver metastases. Eur J Surg Oncol. 2005;31(10):1152-1159.
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  31. Xu KC, Niu LZ, He WB, et al. Percutaneous cryosurgery for the treatment of hepatic colorectal metastases. World J Gastroenterol. 2008;14(9):1430-1436.
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CPT  47371 Laparoscopy, surgical, ablation of 1 or more liver tumor(s); cryosurgical
  47381 Ablation, open, 1 or more liver tumor(s); cryosurgical
  47383 Ablation, 1 or more liver tumor(s), percutaneous, cryoablation (new code 01/01/15)
  76940 Ultrasound guidance for, and monitoring of, parenchymal tissue ablation
ICD-9 Procedure  50.23 Open ablation of liver lesion or tissure
  50.24 Percutaneous ablation of liver lesion or tissue
   50.25  Laparoscopic ablation of liver lesion or tissue
  50.29 Other desctruction of llesion of liver
ICD-9 Diagnosis  155.0 Malignant neoplasm of liver
  197.7 Secondary malignant neoplasm of liver
HCPCS  No code   
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15)    Investigational for all relevant diagnoses  
  C22.0-C22.9 Investigational for all relevant diagnoses
   C22.0-C22.9 Malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile duct code range
   C78.7 Secondary malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile duct
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15)   ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services. 
  0F500ZZ Surgical, hepatobiliary system and pancreas, destruction, liver, open
    0F503ZZ Medical & Surgical hepatobiliary system and pancreas destruction liver percutaneous
  0F504ZZ Medical & Surgical hepatobiliary system and pancreas destruction liver percutaneous endoscopic
Type of Service  Surgery
Place of Service   


Cryoablation, Surgical Ablation, Liver
Liver Tumors, Cryoablation

Policy History
Date Action Reason
12/15/00 Add to Surgery section New policy
10/09/03 Replace policy Original policy on radiofrequency or cryosurgical ablation of hepatic tumors split into two. Literature on cryosurgery updated. Policy statement remains unchanged. Radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors now addressed in policy No. 7.01.91
03/15/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; no change in policy statement
03/07/06 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; no change in policy statement
08/14/08 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 15–20 added; clinical input reviewed. Policy statement unchanged
03/11/10 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 20–32 added. Policy statement unchanged
12/09/10 Replace policy-coding update only ICD-10 codes added to policy.
03/10/11 Replace policy  Policy updated with literature search, rationale section extensively edited, references 28 to 31 updated, some references renumbered/removed, policy statement unchanged
12/8/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 29-31 updated. Policy statement unchanged
12/13/12 Replace Policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 4, 11, 13 and 18 added. Policy statement unchanged
12/12/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through November 12, 2013; reference 15 added. Policy statement unchanged
12/11/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through November 17, 2014; reference 2 added. Policy statement unchanged. CPT coding updated.

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