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MP 7.03.04 Isolated Small Bowel Transplant

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/5:2014
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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.


A small bowel transplant may be performed as an isolated procedure or in conjunction with other visceral organs, including the liver, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, pancreas, or colon. Isolated small bowel transplant is commonly performed in patients with short bowel syndrome. Small bowel/liver transplants and multivisceral transplants are considered in a separate policy (see Related Policies section).


A small bowel transplant is typically performed in patients with short bowel syndrome. This is a condition in which the absorbing surface of the small intestine is inadequate due to extensive disease or surgical removal of a large portion of small intestine. In adults, etiologies of short bowel syndrome include ischemia, trauma, volvulus, and tumors. In children, gastroschisis, volvulus, necrotizing enterocolitis, and congenital atresias are predominant causes.

The small intestine, particularly the ileum, does have the capacity to adapt to some functions of the diseased or removed portion over a period of 1 to 2 years. Prognosis for recovery depends on the degree and location of small intestine damage. Therapy is focused on achieving adequate macro- and micro-nutrient uptake in the remaining small bowel. Pharmacologic agents have been studied to increase villous proliferation and slow transit times, and surgical techniques have been advocated to optimize remaining small bowel. However, some patients with short bowel syndrome are unable to obtain adequate nutrition from enteral feeding and become chronically dependent on total parenteral nutrition (TPN). Patients with complications from TPN may be considered candidates for small bowel transplant. Complications include catheter-related mechanical problems, infections, hepatobiliary disease, and metabolic bone disease. While cadaveric intestinal transplant is the most commonly performed transplant, there has been recent interest in using living donors.

Intestinal transplants (including multivisceral and bowel/liver) represent a small minority of all solid organ transplants. In 2011, 129 intestinal transplants were performed in the United States, of which all but 1 was from deceased donors.(1) In 2012, 106 intestinal transplants were performed in the U.S.; all were from deceased donors.


A small bowel transplant using cadaveric intestine may be considered medically necessary in adult and pediatric patients with intestinal failure (characterized by loss of absorption and the inability to maintain protein-energy, fluid, electrolyte, or micronutrient balance), who have established long-term dependency on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and are developing or have developed severe complications due to TPN.

A small bowel transplant using a living donor may be considered medically necessary only when a cadaveric intestine is not available for transplantation in a patient who meets the criteria noted above for a cadaveric intestinal transplant.

A small bowel retransplant may be considered medically necessary after a failed primary small bowel transplant.

A small bowel transplant using living donors is considered not medically necessary in all other situations.

A small bowel transplant is considered investigational for adults and pediatric patients with intestinal failure who are able to tolerate TPN.

Policy Guidelines


Potential contraindications subject to the judgment of the transplant center:

  1. Known current malignancy, including metastatic cancer
  2. Recent malignancy with high risk of recurrence
  3. Untreated systemic infection making immunosuppression unsafe, including chronic infection
  4. Other irreversible end-stage disease not attributed to intestinal failure
  5. History of cancer with a moderate risk of recurrence
  6. Systemic disease that could be exacerbated by immunosuppression
  7. Psychosocial conditions or chemical dependency affecting ability to adhere to therapy

Small Bowel-Specific

Intestinal failure results from surgical resection, congenital defect, or disease-associated loss of absorption and is characterized by the inability to maintain protein-energy, fluid, electrolyte, or micronutrient balance.(2) Short-bowel syndrome is one case of intestinal failure.

Patients who are developing or have developed severe complications due to total parenteral nutrition (TPN) include, but are not limited to, the following: multiple and prolonged hospitalizations to treat TPN-related complications (especially repeated episodes of catheter-related sepsis) or the development of progressive liver failure. In the setting of progressive liver failure, small bowel transplant may be considered a technique to avoid end-stage liver failure related to chronic TPN, thus avoiding the necessity of a multivisceral transplant. In those receiving TPN, liver disease with jaundice (total bilirubin above 3 mg/dL) is often associated with development of irreversible progressive liver disease. The inability to maintain venous access is another reason to consider small bowel transplant in those who are dependent on TPN.

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

Transplant requests should be reviewed by the Plan medical director or his or her designee. Only patients accepted for transplantation by an approved transplantation center and actively listed for transplant should be considered for precertification or prior approval. Guidelines should be followed for transplant network or consortiums, if applicable.

Small bowel transplants should be considered for coverage under the transplant benefit.

What is covered under the scope of the human organ transplant (HOT) benefit needs to be considered. Typically, the following are covered under the HOT benefit:

  • hospitalization of the recipient for medically recognized transplants from a donor to a transplant recipient;
  • evaluation tests requiring hospitalization to determine the suitability of both potential and actual donors, when such tests cannot be safely and effectively performed on an outpatient basis;
  • hospital room, board, and general nursing in semi-private rooms;
  • special care units, such as coronary and intensive care;
  • hospital ancillary services;
  • physicians’ services for surgery, technical assistance, administration of anesthetics, and medical care;
  • acquisition, preparation, transportation, and storage of organ;
  • diagnostic services;
  • drugs that require a prescription by federal law.

Expenses incurred in the evaluation and procurement of organs and tissues are benefits when billed by the hospital. Included in these expenses may be specific charges for participation with registries for organ procurement, operating rooms, supplies, use of hospital equipment, and transportation of the tissue or organ to be evaluated.

Administration of products with a specific transplant benefit needs to be defined as to:

  • when the benefit begins (at the time of admission for the transplant or once the patient is determined eligible for a transplant, which may include tests or office visits prior to transplant);
  • when the benefit ends (at the time of discharge from the hospital or at the end of required follow-up, including the immunosuppressive drugs administered on an outpatient basis).

Coverage usually is not provided for:

  • HOT services, for which the cost is covered/funded by governmental, foundational, or charitable grants;
  • organs sold rather than donated to the recipient;
  • an artificial organ.


Literature Review

This policy is based on 1995 and 1999 TEC Assessments. The 1995 Assessment concluded that in children, small bowel transplant was associated with improved survival compared to total parenteral nutrition (TPN) as the associated adverse outcomes for small bowel transplant were offset by severe TPN-related complications.(3) This Assessment also concluded that, in adults, the outcomes for small bowel transplant were worse than that associated with TPN. A 1999 TEC Assessment reevaluated the data on adults and concluded that it is not possible to predict which patients would survive longer on TPN versus small bowel transplant and therefore that transplantation is a reasonable option in selected adults.(4)

This policy has been regularly updated with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature search was for the period from August 2012 through August 15, 2013. Much of the published literature consists of case series reported by single centers. These reports, as well as reviews of the reports, observe that while outcomes continue to improve, obstacles to long-term survival remain. Recurrent and chronic rejections and complications of immunosuppression are significant issues in bowel transplantation.

One issue in the literature is the importance of timely referral for intestinal transplantation to avoid the necessity of combined liver and intestine transplantation.(5) It has been suggested that recent improvements in survival may justify removing the restriction of intestinal transplantation to patients who have severe complications of TPN. However, as noted by Vianna and colleagues in their 2008 report on the status of intestinal transplantation, no randomized trials compare intestinal transplantation to long-term parenteral nutrition, and optimal timing for earlier transplantation has not been established.(6) This review also noted that the currently reported 1-year graft and patient survival rate for intestinal transplantation was 80%.

Another issue in the literature is the rate of various complications after small bowel transplant. Florescu et al have published several articles retrospectively reviewing complications in a cohort of 98 pediatric patients. Twenty-one of these children (21.4%) had an isolated small bowel transplant; the remainder had combined transplants. A 2012 study reported that 68 of the 98 patients (69%) developed at least one episode of bloodstream infection.(7) Among the patients with an isolated small bowel transplant, the median time to infection for those who became infected was 4.5 months (95% confidence interval, 2.4 to 6.7 months). Also in 2012, the researchers reported that 7 of 98 patients (7%) developed cytomegalovirus disease; only 1 of these had an isolated small bowel transplant.(8) In 2010, Florescu et al reported that 25 of 98 cases reviewed (25.5%) developed at least one episode of fungal infection; Candida infection was most common.(9) The mortality rate did not differ significantly between patients who did and did not develop a fungal infection (32.3% vs 29.8%, respectively; p=0.46). In 2013, a research group in France reported that 7 of 12 children who had an isolated small bowel transplant had renal function complications at some point after surgery.(10) Prior to treatment, all of the patients had normal renal functioning.

Living donors

Cadaveric intestines have been most commonly used, but recently there has been interest in using a portion of intestine harvested from a living, related donor. Potential advantages of a living donor include the ability to plan the transplantation electively and better antigen matching, leading to improved management of rejection. Small case reports have been published of 1 or 2 patients with different lengths of the ileum or jejunum.(11-14) While there appear to be minimal complications to the donors, of the 6 cases reported, 5 recipients remain on TPN for at least part of their nutrition. One patient remains healthy and is off TPN.

Benedetti and colleagues reported outcomes from 4 children and 7 adults who underwent 12 living-related small bowel transplantations between 1998 and 2004.(15) All donors were reported to have had uneventful recovery following removal of up to 40% of the small intestine. The 3-year patient survival was 82%, with graft survival of 75%. Longer follow-up from the earlier cases was not reported. Gangemi and Benedetti published a literature review of living donor small bowel transplantation reports from 2003 to 2006; all of the reports listed Benedetti et al as author.(16) The authors comment that, “Due to the excellent result in modern series of deceased donor bowel transplantation, widespread use of the procedure [living donor] should not be recommended, in consideration of the potential risks to donor. Furthermore, few centers have acquired the necessary experience with the procedure.”

In June 2010, Sudan published a review of current literature on long-term outcomes after intestinal transplantation.(17) In this paper, the author notes that intestinal transplantation has become standard therapy for patients with life-threatening complications from parenteral nutrition therapy. Data from current single-center series indicates a 1-year patient survival rate of 78% to 85% and a 5+-year survival rate of 56% to 61%. With respect to pediatric intestinal transplant patients, the majority achieve normal growth velocity at 2 years posttransplant. However, oral aversion is a common problem; tube feedings are necessary in 45% of children. Sudan also reports on parental surveys of quality of life in pediatric transplant patients in which intestinal transplant patients appear to have modestly improved quality of life compared to patients remaining on TPN and slightly worse than matched school-age controls without intestinal disease.

HIV+ transplant recipients

This subgroup of recipients has long been controversial, due to the long-term prognosis for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positivity and the impact of immunosuppression on HIV disease. Although HIV-positive transplant recipients may be a research interest of some transplant centers, the minimal data regarding long-term outcome in these patients primarily consist of case reports and abstract presentations of liver and kidney recipients. Nevertheless, some transplant surgeons would argue that HIV positivity is no longer an absolute contraindication to transplant due to the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which has markedly changed the natural history of the disease.

As of February 2013, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) policy on HIV-positive transplant candidates states “A potential candidate for organ transplantation whose test for HIV is positive should not be excluded from candidacy for organ transplantation unless there is a documented contraindication to transplantation based on local policy.” (Policy 4, Identification of Transmissible Diseases in Organ Recipients).(18)

In 2006, the British HIV Association and the British Transplantation Society Standards Committee published guidelines for kidney transplantation in patients with HIV disease.(19) As described above, these criteria may be extrapolated to other organs.

The guidelines, which are similar to those cited above, recommend that any patient with end-stage organ disease with a life expectancy of at least 5 years is considered appropriate for transplantation under the following conditions:

  • CD4 200 cells/micro liter for at least 6 months.
  • Undetectable HIV viremia (<50 HIV-1 RNA copies/mL) for at least 6 months
  • Demonstrable adherence and a stable HAART regimen for at least 6 months
  • Absence of AIDS-defining illness following successful immune reconstitution after HAART.


Desai et al have published the most comprehensive reporting of outcomes after repeat small bowel transplant in the United States. A 2012 publication evaluated data in the UNOS database on patients who underwent small bowel transplants in the U.S between October 1987 and August 2009.(20) The investigators identified 41 repeat isolated small bowel transplants in adults and 28 in children. Thirty-nine of the adults (95%) and 27 (96%) of the children had a previous isolated small bowel transplant; the remaining patients had an initial combined small bowel and liver transplant.

Among adults, survival rates after retransplant were 80% after 1 year, 47% after 3 years and 29% after 5 years. Comparable survival rates for primary isolated small bowel transplant were 84% after 1 year, 67% after 3 years and 54% after 5 years. Survival was significantly lower after repeat isolated small bowel transplant compared to primary isolated small bowel transplant (p=0.005).

Among children, patient survival was 81% after 1 year, 74% after 3 years and 58% after 5 years. These rates did not differ significantly from rates after primary isolated small bowel transplant (85% after 1 year, 71% after 3 years and 64% after 5 years).

Clinical Input Received through Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

In response to requests, input was received through 2 physician specialty societies and 2 academic medical centers while this policy was under review for July 2009. 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. The consensus of those providing input was that small bowel transplant should be performed in patients who are developing severe TPN-related complications and that small bowel transplant from living donors may be considered when cadaveric intestinal transplants are not available.


Based on the evidence review and clinical input, small bowel transplant may be considered medically necessary in patients with intestinal failure who are developing severe total parenteral nutrition-related complications, to obviate the subsequent need for a multivisceral transplant. Small bowel transplantation using a living donor may be considered medically necessary only when a cadaveric intestinal transplant is not available. The available published survival data suggest that small bowel retransplant is a reasonable option after a failed primary small bowel transplant; thus, this may be considered medically necessary. Routine use of living-donor intestinal transplants is considered not medically necessary because the net health outcome associated with this procedure is reduced (compared to cadaveric transplant) because of donor-related morbidity.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

In 2003, the American Gastroenterological Association produced a medical position statement on short bowel syndrome and intestinal transplantation.(21) . It recommends dietary, medical, and surgical solutions. Indications for intestinal transplantation mirror those of CMS. The guidelines acknowledge the limitations of transplant for these patients.

Medicare National Coverage

Effective for services performed on or after April 1, 2001, this procedure is covered only when performed for patients who have failed total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and only when performed in centers that meet approval criteria. (22)

1. Failed TPN

The TPN delivers nutrients intravenously, avoiding the need for absorption through the small bowel. TPN failure includes the following:

  • Impending or overt liver failure due to TPN induced liver injury. The clinical manifestations include elevated serum bilirubin and/or liver enzymes, splenomegaly, thrombocytopenia, gastroesophageal varices, coagulopathy, stomal bleeding or hepatic fibrosis/cirrhosis.
  • Thrombosis of the major central venous channels; jugular, subclavian, and femoral veins. Thrombosis of two or more of these vessels is considered a life-threatening complication and failure of TPN therapy. The sequelae of central venous thrombosis are lack of access for TPN infusion, fatal sepsis due to infected thrombi, pulmonary embolism, Superior Vena Cava syndrome, or chronic venous insufficiency.
  • Frequent line infection and sepsis. The development of two or more episodes of systemic sepsis secondary to line infection per year that requires hospitalization indicates failure of TPN therapy. A single episode of line-related fungemia, septic shock and/or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome are considered indicators of TPN failure.
  • Frequent episodes of severe dehydration despite intravenous fluid supplement in addition to TPN. Under certain medical conditions such as secretory diarrhea and nonconstructable gastrointestinal tract, the loss of the gastrointestinal and pancreatobiliary secretions exceeds the maximum intravenous infusion rates that can be tolerated by the cardiopulmonary system. Frequent episodes of dehydration are deleterious to all body organs particularly kidneys and the central nervous system with the development of multiple kidney stones, renal failure, and permanent brain damage.

2. Approved Transplant Facilities

Intestinal transplantation is covered by Medicare if performed in an approved facility. The criteria for approval of centers will be based on a volume of 10 intestinal transplants per year with a 1-year actuarial survival of 65 percent using the Kaplan-Meier technique.


  1. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Available online at: Last accessed August, 2013.
  2. O'Keefe SJ, Buchman AL, Fishbein TM et al. Short bowel syndrome and intestinal failure: consensus definitions and overview. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2006; 4(1):6-10.
  3. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (TEC). Small bowel transplant. TEC Assessments 1995; Volume 10, Tab 27.
  4. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (TEC). Small bowel transplants in adults and multivisceral transplants. TEC Assessments 1999; Volume 14, Tab 9.
  5. Matarese LE, Costa G, Bond G et al. Therapeutic efficacy of intestinal and multivisceral transplantation: survival and nutrition outcome. Nutr Clin Pract 2007; 22(5):474-81.
  6. Vianna RM, Mangus RS, Tector AJ. Current status of small bowel and multivisceral transplantation. Adv Surg 2008; 42:129-50.
  7. Florescu DF, Qiu F, Langnas AN et al. Bloodstream infections during the first year after pediatric small bowel transplantation. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2012; 31(7):700-4.
  8. Florescu DF, Langnas AN, Grant W et al. Incidence, risk factors, and outcomes associated with cytomegalovirus disease in small bowel transplant recipients. Pediatr Transplant 2012; 16(3):294-301.
  9. Florescu DF, Islam KM, Grant W et al. Incidence and outcome of fungal infections in pediatric small bowel transplant recipients. Transpl Infect Dis 2010; 12(6):497-504.
  10. Boyer O, Noto C, De Serre NP et al. Renal function and histology in children after small bowel transplantation. Pediatr Transplant 2013; 17(1):65-72.
  11. Fujimoto Y, Uemoto S, Inomata Y et al. Living-related small bowel transplant: management of rejection and infection. Transplant Proc 1998; 30(1):149.
  12. Gruessner RW, Sharp HL. Living-related intestinal transplantation: first report of a standardized surgical technique. Transplantation 1997; 64(11):1605-7.
  13. Jaffe BM, Beck R, Flint L et al. Living-related small bowel transplantation in adults: a report of two patients. Transplant Proc 1997; 29(3):1851-2.
  14. Tesi R, Beck R, Lambiase L et al. Living-related small-bowel transplantation: donor evaluation and outcome. Transplant Proc 1997; 29(2-Jan):686-7.
  15. Benedetti E, Holterman M, Asolati M et al. Living related segmental bowel transplantation: from experimental to standardized procedure. Ann Surg 2006; 244(5):694-9.
  16. Gangemi A, Benedetti E. Living donor small bowel transplantation: Literature review 2003-2006. Pediatr Transplant 2006; 10(8):875-8.
  17. Sudan D. Long-term outcomes and quality of life after intestine transplantation. Curr Opin Organ Transplant 2010; 15(3):357-60.
  18. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Policy Management. Available online at: Last accessed August, 2013.
  19. Bhagani S, Sweny P, Brook G. Guidelines for kidney transplantation in patients with HIV disease. HIV Med 2006; 7(3):133-9.
  20. Desai CS, Khan KM, Gruessner AC et al. Intestinal retransplantation: analysis of Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network database. Transplantation 2012; 93(1):120-5.
  21. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement: short bowel syndrome and intestinal transplantation. Gastroenterology 2003; 124(4):1105-10.
  22. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. National Coverage Determination for Intestinal and Multi-visceral Transplantation (260.5). Available online at: Last accessed August, 2013.







Donor enterectomy, open, with preparation and maintenance of allograft; from cadaver donor 



Donor enterectomy, open, with preparation and maintenance of allograft; partial from living donor 



Intestinal allotransplantation; from cadaver donor 



Intestinal allotransplantation; from living donor 

  44715 Backbench standard preparation of cadaver or living donor intestine allograft prior to transplantation, including mobilization and fashioning of the superior mesenteric artery and vein
  44720 Backbench reconstruction of cadaver or living donor intestine allograft prior to transplantation; venous anastomosis, each
  44721 Backbench reconstruction of cadaver or living donor intestine allograft prior to transplantation; arterial anastomosis, each

ICD-9 Procedure 


Transplant of intestine 

ICD-9 Diagnosis 


Syndrome, short bowel 


No code 


ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15)   K90.0-K90.9 Intestinal malabsorption code range  
   K91.2 Postsurgical malabsorption, not elsewhere classified  
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15) 0DY80Z0 Surgical, gastrointestinal system, transplantation, small intestine, open, allogeneic 

Type of Service 


Place of Service 



Bowel Transplant, Small
Intestine Transplant, Small
Small Bowel Transplant
Transplant, Small Bowel

Policy History

Date Action Reason
12/01/95 Add to Surgery section New policy
12/01/99 Replace policy Content updated, policy statement revised based on 1999 TEC Assessment
12/15/00 Replace policy Updated information on living related donors, policy statement unchanged
10/9/03 Replace policy Reviewed with literature search; no change in policy statement
02/25/04 Replace policy Additional indications put in Policy Guidelines section to be consistent with other transplant policies; no change in policy statement, no other review performed
03/15/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; no change in policy statement. Reference number 8 added
04/1/05 Replace policy Policy revised; HIV positivity deleted as a contraindication for transplant. Additional information added to Rationale statement. Reference number 8 revised
03/7/06 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review. No change in policy statement
01/10/08 Replace Policy Policy updated with literature review; references 9 - 11 added; “short bowel syndrome” changed to “intestinal failure”. Intestinal failure defined. No other changes in policy statements.
08/13/09 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; references 13 and 14 added; clinical input reviewed. Policy statements changed to indicate the small bowel transplant may be considered medically necessary in those developing severe TPN-related complications, and that small bowel transplants from living donors may be considered medically necessary only when cadaveric transplants are not available. The word “isolated” was added to the title.
10/08/10 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review. Added reference 13 and 17. No change in policy statements.
10/04/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review. Added reference 7; other references renumbered. No change in policy statements. 
11/10/11 Replace policy Potential contraindications added to Policy Guidelines. Wording of potential contraindications consistent with other solid organ transplant policies.
10/11/12 Replacy Policy Policy updated with literature review. Added references 7 and 8; other references renumbered. No change in policy statements.
10/10/13 Replacy Policy Policy updated with literature review through August 15, 2013, added reference 10; other references renumbered. No change in policy statements.
12/12/13 Replacy Policy Statement added that small bowel retransplant may be considered medically necessary after a failed primary small bowel transplant. Reference 20 added; other references renumbered.
5/22/14 Replace policy The most recent literature search was for the period through August 15, 2013. Pediatric patients added to investigational policy statement on patients with intestinal failure who are able to tolerate TPN.


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