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MP 8.01.14 Brachytherapy for Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer Using Permanently Implanted Seeds

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Revised with literature search/6:2014
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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.


Brachytherapy is a procedure in which a radioactive source (eg, radioisotope "seeds") is permanently or temporarily implanted to treat localized prostate cancer. The radiation in brachytherapy penetrates only short distances and is intended to deliver tumoricidal radioactivity directly to the tumor to improve local control, while sparing surrounding normal tissue. Focal (subtotal) prostate brachytherapy is a form of organ-preserving therapy for small localized prostate cancers. This policy only reviews permanent low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy in prostate cancer.


Brachytherapy is a procedure in which a radioactive source (eg, radioisotope "seeds") is used to treat localized prostate cancer. With brachytherapy, the radiation penetrates only short distances; this procedure is intended to deliver tumoricidal radioactivity directly to the tumor and improve local control, while sparing surrounding normal tissue. Local tumor control has been reported to be associated with lower distant metastasis rates and improved patient survival. Seeds can be permanently or temporarily implanted. Permanent (LDR) brachytherapy is generally used for those with low-risk disease; temporary (high-dose rate [HDR]) brachytherapy is typically reserved for intermediate- or high-risk patients. This policy only reviews permanent LDR brachytherapy in prostate cancer.

The proposed biologic advantages of brachytherapy compared with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) are related to the dose delivered to the target and the dose-delivery rate. The dose rate of brachytherapy sources is generally in the range of 40 to 60 cGy/h, whereas conventional fractionated EBRT dose rates exceed 200 cGy/min. Enhanced normal tissue repair occurs at the LDRs. Repair of tumor cells does not occur as quickly, and these cells continue to die during continued exposure. Thus, from a radiobiologic perspective, LDRs cause ongoing tumor destruction in the setting of normal tissue repair. In addition, brachytherapy is performed as a single procedure in the outpatient setting, which may represent a patient preference issue compared with the multiple sessions required to deliver EBRT. The total doses of radiotherapy (RT) that can be delivered may also vary between EBRT and brachytherapy, especially with newer forms of EBRT such as 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT).

Brachytherapy, generally, is not indicated for patients with a large prostate or those with a urethral stricture, as the procedure results in short-term swelling of the prostate, which can lead to urinary obstruction. As with all forms of RT, there are concerns regarding the long-term risk of treatment-related secondary malignancies. There also are reports that suggest that the clinician’s level of experience with brachytherapy is correlated with disease recurrence rates.

Studies of permanent brachytherapy have generally used either iodine-125 or palladium-103. Use of cesium-131 is also being studied. Use of iodine-125 requires more seeds, thus reducing dosimetric dependence on any single seed. Postimplant dosimetric assessment should be performed to ensure the quality of the implant and optimal source placement, ie, targeted tumor areas receive the predetermined radiation dosages while nearby structures and tissue are preserved.

Permanent brachytherapy may be used alone as monotherapy or may be combined with EBRT (together known as combined modality therapy [CMT]) as a way to boost the dose of RT delivered to the tumor. Again, CMT can be performed with permanent or temporary brachytherapy. The brachytherapy boost is typically done 2 to 6 weeks after completion of EBRT, although the sequence can vary.

Focal or subtotal prostate brachytherapy is a form of more localized, organ-preserving therapy for small localized prostate cancers. With this approach, brachytherapy “seeds” are placed only in the areas where the tumor has been identified rather than throughout the whole prostate gland. This is done in an effort to reduce the occurrence of adverse events that may be associated with brachytherapy, including urinary, bowel, and sexual dysfunction.


Brachytherapy using permanent transperineal implantation of radioactive seeds may be considered medically necessary in the treatment of localized prostate cancer when used as monotherapy or in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) (see Policy Guidelines).

Focal or subtotal prostate brachytherapy is considered investigational in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Policy Guidelines

Permanent brachytherapy using only implanted seeds is generally used in patients whose prostate cancer is considered low risk. Active surveillance is generally recommended for very low-risk prostate cancer. Permanent brachytherapy combined with EBRT (3D-conformal, intensity-modulated, or proton) is used, sometimes along with androgen deprivation, to treat higher risk disease. Adequate dose escalation should be achieved with combination permanent brachytherapy and 3D-CRT. IMRT should be limited only to cases in which 3D-CRT planning is not able to meet dose volume constraints for normal tissue tolerance.

Prostate cancer risk is often defined using the following criteria:

  • Low risk: PSA [prostate-specific antigen] 10 ng/mL or less, Gleason score 6 or less, and clinical stage T1c (very low risk) or T1-T2a.
  • Intermediate risk: PSA >10 but 20 ng/mL or less, or Gleason score 7, or clinical stage T2b-T2c.
  • High risk: PSA >20 ng/mL or Gleason score 8–10, or clinical stage T3a for clinically localized disease and T3b-T4 for locally advanced disease.

The procedure is usually performed in 2 stages: a prostate volume study (CPT code 76873) followed at a later date by the implant itself, which is performed in the operating room with the patient under general or epidural anesthesia. Iodine or palladium are the typical isotopes used, and the selection of isotope is usually based on physician preference. A computed tomography (CT) scan is usually performed at some stage after the procedure to determine the quality of the seed placement.

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

No applicable information. 


This policy was originally created in 1997 and was updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature review was performed for the period of April 2013 through May 26, 2014. The following is a summary of the key literature to date.

Evaluating treatment options for clinically localized prostate cancer is difficult because there is minimal evidence comparing various treatments, including active surveillance (“watchful waiting”), in terms of improving clinically meaningful patient outcomes. Even assuming that an intervention can improve outcomes, the variable and often indolent natural history of clinically localized prostate cancer would require randomized trials with follow-up of 10 to 15 years to determine if, for example, brachytherapy is associated with equivalent or superior long-term outcomes compared with alternative therapies including various types of radiation therapy. These data are not currently available. The lack of these trials makes it difficult to reach strict scientific conclusions regarding the comparative efficacy of brachytherapy with other treatments for localized prostate cancer.

The framework often used in analyzing treatments of localized prostate cancer, given the lack of comparative studies and lack of information regarding impact on survival, is to evaluate the effect of the treatment on surrogate end points (such as biochemical-free survival) and treatment-related complications.

Brachytherapy has become widely accepted among physicians and its speed and convenience compared with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) are appealing to patients. Therefore, given the baseline uncertainty regarding long-term outcomes associated with any or no treatment of clinically localized prostate cancer, decisions regarding any treatment option for prostate cancer are frequently reframed as an issue of patient preference, even while acknowledging that the decision must be made based on incomplete data.

Systematic Reviews

Rodrigues et al, in 2013, reported on a systematic review that analyzed 36 articles on brachytherapy for low- or intermediate-risk prostate cancer.(1) No evidence was found indicating the efficacy of brachytherapy compared with EBRT or radical prostatectomy (RP). However, noncomparative studies were included in the analysis due to the lack of available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) thus limiting interpretation of the conclusions.

In a 2012 comparative effectiveness report from the international Prostate Cancer Results Study Group (PCRSG), prostate-specific antigen (PSA)‒free survival following various prostate cancer treatments, including brachytherapy, was noted to be difficult to evaluate, because very few studies that compared results from treatment options were identified.(2) Additionally, variations in methods of evaluating outcomes and reporting results complicated the analysis. The PCRSG only included studies on EBRT that used a minimum 72 Gy conformal or intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). The authors concluded, in low-risk and intermediate-risk prostate cancer, PSA progression-free survival was higher on average with brachytherapy over RP or EBRT. In intermediate-risk patients, outcomes were similar with brachytherapy with or without EBRT. With high-risk patients, combined brachytherapy with EBRT with or without androgen deprivation produced better outcomes than brachytherapy, surgery, or EBRT alone.

Peinemann et al reported on results from a Cochrane review of brachytherapy in 2011.(3) The authors focused the review on the only identified RCT (Giberti et al(4)) reported next. The Giberti study compared brachytherapy with RP and was considered to have a high risk of bias. Peinemann et al also reported on results from a systematic review of brachytherapy in 2011.(5) In this review, the Giberti RCT(4) and 30 nonrandomized studies were included, all of which were found to also have a high risk of bias. Heterogeneity and the poor quality of available studies limited the interpretation of findings. In both of these reviews, the authors concluded that RCTs are needed to determine the role of brachytherapy for localized prostate cancer. Similarly, in another 2011 systematic review, Bannuru et al analyzed 75 studies (10 RCTs, 65 nonrandomized comparative studies) on RT for clinically localized prostate cancer.(6) RTs included brachytherapy, high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, and EBRT (conformal radiation, IMRT, or proton therapy). The authors found the evidence was insufficient to compare the effectiveness of different forms of radiation treatments. Additionally, the effects of radiation treatments on patient survival were unclear compared with no treatment or no initial treatment. However, evidence considered to be of moderate strength showed higher EBRT dosages were consistently associated with increased long-term biochemical control rates compared with EBRT delivered at lower dosages.

A 2009 review was conducted on both brachytherapy (permanent) and proton beam therapy.(7) This report concluded that brachytherapy was at least comparable to IMRT for localized prostate cancer in terms of clinical effectiveness. This review also concluded that brachytherapy was a high-value technology compared with IMRT. The review mentions that brachytherapy is a more established therapy than IMRT. Despite identifying 166 studies that met their review criteria for this report, only 1 study involved an internal comparison of these treatments: a single-center evaluation of toxicity rates in 2 different case series of brachytherapy or IMRT. Nearly all of the other studies were relatively small single-center case series of a single modality with evidence further limited by variability in population demographics, disease risk status, and measures of treatment success and treatment-related complications. In this review, at 5 years after diagnosis, survival estimates ranged from 60% to 90% for active surveillance and 77% to 97% for brachytherapy. This review also estimated acute and late radiation toxicities based on studies identified. This analysis of toxicity was based on studies that used standardized scoring criteria and in general involved a level of severity of 2 or more. For acute gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity, the rate was estimated at 2% for brachytherapy and 18% for IMRT, and for chronic GI toxicity, these rates were 4% and 7%, respectively. For genitourinary (GU) toxicity, acute rates were about 30% for both therapies and about 15% for chronic toxicity. Erectile dysfunction was 32% in the brachytherapy studies. Seed migration is a unique risk with permanent brachytherapy. It occurs when 1 or more seeds become dislodged and travel to nearby organs such as the bladder or lung. While this has been reported in 6% to 55% of patients, reports of harm are limited to individual case studies.

Brachytherapy used as monotherapy

Most of the data on brachytherapy consists of uncontrolled case series. Permanent low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, as monotherapy, in the treatment of localized prostate cancer may be best used in men older than 60 years with small volume cancer of low-risk disease (Gleason sum, <7; PSA, <10 mg/mL; stage T1c).(8) Patients in their 50s or younger may not be considered ideal candidates for brachytherapy based on concerns regarding the durability of treatment and quality-of-life outcomes. However, favorable outcomes in men 60 years or younger treated with brachytherapy for localized prostate cancer have been reported. Ideally, the cancer should be within a prostate with a volume of less than 60 mL. Patients with locally advanced prostate cancer may be undertreated by permanent brachytherapy alone.

Randomized, controlled trials

In Giberti et al, 200 low-risk prostate cancer patients were randomized to either RP or brachytherapy for low-risk prostate cancer.(4) Biochemical disease-free survival rates at 5 years were 90% for RP and 91.7% for brachytherapy. Both treatment groups experienced decreases in quality of life at 6 months and 1-year posttreatment, although brachytherapy patients reported more urinary disorders but better erectile function than the RP group. At 5-year follow-up, functional outcomes did not differ in either arm of the study. Crook et al also reported on quality-of-life outcomes at 5 years in 168 patients after RP or brachytherapy in the SPIRIT: Surgical Prostatectomy Versus Interstitial Radiation Intervention Trial.(9) In this study, 34 patients were randomized, while the other 134 patients were allowed to select a treatment group. SPIRIT was closed after 2 years due to poor patient accrual. At a median of 5.2 years follow-up, the brachytherapy patients scored better in patient satisfaction and urinary and sexual function than RP.

Nonrandomized, comparative studies

Ragde et al report on the 10-year follow-up of patients with prostate cancer treated with brachytherapy.(10) Among low-risk patients, the freedom from increasing PSA levels was approximately 80%. However, without a comparison group, it is difficult to reach conclusions regarding the relative efficacy of various treatment options.

In a 1:1 matched-pair design, Pickles et al prospectively followed 278 low- and intermediate-risk, localized prostate cancer patients treated with either brachytherapy or conformal EBRT (139 patients in each group).(11) The authors reported that biochemical control (nadir + 2) at 5 years was 95% in the brachytherapy group versus 85% in the EBRT group (p<0.001). This rate was unchanged at 7 years in the brachytherapy group but decreased to 75% in the EBRT group. Brachytherapy patients experienced more urinary complaints, while EBRT patients had more rectal and bowel issues. The authors concluded brachytherapy is favored over EBRT in these populations of patients. In a nonrandomized study, Martinez et al compared 454 patients treated with either LDR brachytherapy (206 patients) or HDR brachytherapy (171 patients) at William Beaumont Hospital (WBH) during the period of 1993 through 2004.(12) The patients at WBH selected which treatment option they would receive. Also included in the study analysis were 77 patients who received HDR brachytherapy at California Endocurietherapy (CET) during the period of 1996 through 2002. All of the patients selected for this study were low to intermediate risk and had PSA levels equal to or less than 12 ng/mL, Gleason scores of equal to or less than 7, and clinical stage T1c-T2a disease. The HDR brachytherapy dosages were 9.5 Gy ´ 4 at WBH and 7 Gy ´ 6 at CET. Treatment outcomes at 5 years included biochemical control rates of 89% in the LDR group at WBH, 91% in the HDR group at WBH, and 88% in the HDR group at CET. Overall and cause-specific survival rates at 5 years were not statistically different between groups. The HDR groups experienced statistically significant lower rates of dysuria, urinary frequency/urgency, and acute rectal pain. Rates of diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and acute urinary incontinence and retention were similar. Most toxicities were grade 1 in both groups, but more grade 3 acute GU tract toxicities were seen in the LDR group. Potency was 30% in the LDR group and 20% in the HDR groups.

Coen et al compared high-dose EBRT (79.2 Gy equivalent) delivered using photons and protons to permanent LDR in a case-matched analysis of 282 patients (141 matches) with localized, low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer.(13) Biochemical failure (nadir + 2) at 8 years was 7.7% in the high-dose EBRT group and 16.1% in the brachytherapy group (p=0.42). Further study is warranted; because case-matching may not account for important patient characteristics, the groups may not be similar.

Nepple et al analyzed data obtained prospectively from 2 centers to compare prostate cancer treatment mortality outcomes in men without comorbidities.(14) The analysis included 4459 men treated with RP compared with 972 men treated with brachytherapy and 1261 men treated with EBRT. After treatment, there was a median follow-up of 7.2 years. Brachytherapy did not significantly increase prostate cancer mortality when compared with RP using Cox analysis or competing risk analysis; however, EBRT did increase prostate cancer mortality under Cox analysis. Overall mortality increased with both brachytherapy (hazard ratio [HR], 1.78; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.37 to 2.31) and EBRT (HR=1.71; 95% CI, 1.40 to 2.08) compared with RP.

Williams et al compared data from the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare-linked data on 10,928 patients with localized prostate cancer treated with primary cryoablation or brachytherapy.(15) Urinary and erectile dysfunction occurred significantly more frequently with cryoablation than brachytherapy (41.4% and 34.7% vs 22.2% and 21%, respectively). The use of androgen deprivation therapy also occurred significantly more often after cryoablation than brachytherapy, suggesting a higher rate of prostate cancer recurrence after cryoablation (1.4 vs 0.5 per 100 person years). Bowel complications, however, occurred significantly more frequently with brachytherapy (19%) than cryoablation (12.1%).

Kollmeier et al reported on 236 men, age 60 or younger, treated with brachytherapy with or without EBRT.(16) The prostate cancer-specific survival rate was 99% at a median follow-up of 83 months. GU toxicity at 2 or more was 14% and GI toxicity was 3%. Potency remained at last follow-up in 51% of the men who were potent before treatment. Buckstein et al also reported on 131 men, age 60 or younger, treated with brachytherapy with or without EBRT.(17) Only 1 prostate cancer-related death occurred during median follow-up of 11.5 years. Potency remained at last follow-up in 69% of the men who were potent before treatment, However, the mean Sexual Health Inventory for Men score decreased significantly from 19.5 to 15.3 (p=0.008).

Brachytherapy combined with EBRT

Permanent brachytherapy has also been combined with EBRT as a way to boost the total amount of radiation delivered to the prostate cancer; thus increasing the likelihood of increased patient survival.

Randomized controlled trials

Merrick et al randomized 247 intermediate- to high-risk prostate cancer patients to receive brachytherapy with either 20 Gy or 44 Gy EBRT.(18) At a median follow-up of 9 years, no statistically significant differences were found in biochemical progression-free survival (BPFS), cause-specific survival, and overall survival (OS) between the 2 groups of supplemental EBRT. This suggests outcomes were influenced by quality brachytherapy implants rather than an increased radiation dosage of EBRT. At 8 and 10 years’ follow-up for the entire study population, BPFS was 93.2%, the cause-specific survival was 97.7%, and 96.9%, and OS was 80.8% and 75.4%, respectively.

Nonrandomized, comparative studies

In 2008, key studies were reviewed by Hurwitz.(19) This summary included results of 2 phase 2 cooperative group studies that were designed to assess toxicity, and participants were followed up to provide an assessment of treatment efficacy. This subsequent follow-up was to compare results to prior reports from single-institution studies. Patients in these studies had intermediate-risk disease and were treated by EBRT followed by permanent brachytherapy. In the first study (RTOG 0019), 138 patients were treated with 45 Gy of 3D-conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) followed by iodine-125 brachytherapy. These patients had stage T1-2b disease; if the Gleason score was less than 7, PSA was between 10 and 20, but if the Gleason score was 7, then PSA had to be 20 or less. Thus, these patients are in the intermediate-risk group. The 4-year rate of biochemical recurrence in this intermediate group was 19% using American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) criteria. Grades 3 and 4 late GU toxicity was 13%, and for late GI toxicity, the rate was 3%. Comments were made that these rates were higher than are often reported for either treatment alone. However, the total radiation dose was also higher. In this study, use of androgen deprivation was at the discretion of the treating practitioner. Lee et al reported on complication rates in this study at an earlier time.(20) The 18-month estimate of late grade 3 GU and GI toxicity was 3.3% (CI, 0.1% to 6.5%), and no late grade 4 or 5 toxicity had been noted at the time of this earlier report. In the second phase 2 study (CALBG 99809), 68 patients had 45 Gy of EBRT followed by permanent brachytherapy (radioactive iodine or palladium). All patients in this series received androgen deprivation, and adverse effects from the androgen deprivation were frequently noted. At a median follow-up of 38 months, no treatment failures (biochemical failures) were noted. Long-term grades 2 and 3 toxicities were noted in 16% of the patients.

Long-term results from the RTOG 0019 study were published in 2012, with data from 131 patients followed for a median of 8.3 years.(21) Late GU and/or GI tract toxicity greater than grade 3 was estimated to be 15% and most commonly included urinary frequency, dysuria, and proctitis. Grade 3 impotence was reported in 42% of patients. As previously noted, these adverse effects rates with combined modality therapy (CMT) were higher than are often reported for either brachytherapy or EBRT treatment alone. Estimates of biochemical failure were 18% by the Phoenix definition and 21% by ASTRO’s definition and were similar to either treatment alone.

Long-term results are also available from large cohorts treated at single institutions. For example, Sylvester et al reported on results of treatment with 45 Gy of EBRT followed by permanent brachytherapy. In this series, no androgen deprivation therapy was used.(22) This report was based on a series of 223 consecutive patients treated between 1987 and 1993 at the Seattle Prostate Institute; patients had stage T1-T3 disease. Permanent brachytherapy was performed with radioactive palladium or iodine 4 weeks after EBRT. In this series, the authors reported 15-year BRFS in the low-risk group of 88%, 80% in the intermediate-risk group, and 53% in the high-risk group. In addition, while this was a case series, long-term outcomes were compared with those of 2 institutions that had results for RP. Results were similar across Gleason score categories, eg, the relapse-free survival was 25% to 30% for those with Gleason score 7 for the 3 series of patients but were variable for other prognostic factors such as PSA. The authors noted that when they initiated their study, they included low-risk patients but that they now would not use CMT in low-risk patients. In another report from one center, results were summarized for CMT using 3D-CRT followed by permanent (palladium) brachytherapy.(23) This study involved 282 consecutive patients; 119 were intermediate risk and 124 were high risk. Patients were treated from 1992 to 1996. In this series, 14-year freedom from biochemical progression in the intermediate-risk group was 87% and 72% in the high-risk group.

In a retrospective analysis by Koontz et al, 199 patients with low- to high-risk prostate cancer were treated with LDR brachytherapy and 46 Gy EBRT during the period of June 1997 through August 2007.(24) Overall BRFS and PSA control at 5 years were 87% and 92%, respectively. In the high-risk group of 66 patients, overall BRFS and PSA control at 5 years were 81% and 86%, respectively. The authors concluded EBRT plus LDR brachytherapy provides excellent results even in high-risk cancer patients with acceptable morbidity.

Focal (subtotal) prostate brachytherapy

There is limited data in the published literature on focal prostate brachytherapy. Available reports have focused on methods for delineating and evaluating tumor areas to identify appropriate candidates for focal prostate therapy and treatment-planning approaches. Reports on patient outcomes after focal brachytherapy are limited. In a 2013 systematic review, Valerio et al reviewed studies on focal prostate cancer therapies.(25) However, only 1 series by Nguyen et al included in the systematic review reported on focal brachytherapy.(26) In the Nguyen study, 318 men received brachytherapy only to the peripheral zone. In low-risk and intermediate-risk cases, freedom from PSA failure (defined as nadir + 2) was 95.1% and 73% at 5 years and 80.4% and 66.4% at 8 years, respectively. Many questions remain including treatment effectiveness, patient selection criteria, and posttreatment monitoring approaches.

In 2012, Langley et al reported on a consensus meeting convened to address issues on focal LDR brachytherapy for prostate cancer including “optimal patient selection, disease characterization and localization, treatment protocols and outcome measures.”(27) The consensus criteria developed for patient selection included life expectancy greater than 10 years, PSA 15 ng/mL or less, unilateral disease 0.5 mL or less, Gleason score 6-7, and tumor stage T2b or less.

Ongoing Trials

A May 26, 2014 search of online site identified several active studies on brachytherapy for prostate cancer treatment. In a randomized phase 3 trial, the effectiveness of brachytherapy with or without EBRT will be evaluated in 588 intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients (NCT00063882). A randomized phase 3 study of 400 patients with intermediate- and high-risk localized prostate cancer will compare androgen suppression and elective pelvic nodal irradiation followed by high-dose 3-D conformal boost versus androgen suppression and elective pelvic nodal irradiation followed by Iodine-125 brachytherapy implant boost (NCT00175396). In another randomized phase 3 trial, androgen-deprivation therapy and various approaches to RT including brachytherapy will be studied in 2580 patients. (NCT01368588). In a phase 3, prospective, multicenter, randomized trial, 1520 patients with intermediate-risk prostate cancer will be studied to compare dose-escalated RT (EBRT or EBRT with HDR or LDR brachytherapy) with or without short-term androgen deprivation therapy (NCT00936390).


Brachytherapy is a procedure in which a radioactive source (eg, radioisotope "seeds") is permanently or temporarily implanted to treat localized prostate cancer. The radiation in brachytherapy penetrates only short distances and is intended to deliver tumoricidal radioactivity directly to the tumor to improve local control, while sparing surrounding normal tissue. Focal (subtotal) prostate brachytherapy is a form of organ-preserving therapy for small localized prostate cancers.

Permanent brachytherapy provides freedom from biochemical recurrence at acceptable risk and, based on many case series and single-institution studies with long-term follow-up, may be considered as an option in the treatment of localized prostate cancer; while brachytherapy combined with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is considered an option in patients with intermediate- and high-risk prostate cancer. This treatment approach provides radiation dose to the prostate and extraprostatic coverage as well. While quality studies differentiating superiority of any type of radiation technique are not available, the available evidence for permanent brachytherapy in the treatment of localized prostate cancer when used as monotherapy or in conjunction with EBRT is sufficient to demonstrate improvements in net health outcomes and may be considered medically necessary.

There are limited data in published literature on focal brachytherapy. Available reports have focused on methods for delineating and evaluating tumor areas to identify appropriate candidates for focal prostate therapy. Reports on patient outcomes after focal brachytherapy have not been published. Given the lack of available studies and evidence, focal or subtotal prostate brachytherapy is considered investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for prostate cancer (v.2.2014) note that the cancer-control rates for brachytherapy appear comparable with surgery for low-risk tumors with medium-term follow up.(28) The guidelines also add that for intermediate- and high-risk cancer, brachytherapy may be combined with EBRT (40-50 Gy) with or without androgen deprivation, but the complication rates increase.

The guidelines state that patients with very large or very small prostates, symptoms of bladder outlet obstruction, or previous transurethral resection of the prostate are more difficult to implant and may suffer increased risk of adverse effects. In cases of enlarged prostate, neoadjuvant androgen deprivation therapy may be used to shrink the prostate. However, increased toxicity would be expected and prostate size may not decline.

The American Brachytherapy Society (ABS) Prostate Low-Dose Rate Task Group provides the following patient selection criteria for monotherapy: clinical stage T1b-T2b and Gleason score equal to or less than 6, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) equal to or less than 10 ng/mL. (29) The ABS guidelines also indicate monotherapy may be used in select higher risk patients and for salvage of select radiotherapy failures. For boost, patient selection criteria includes: clinical stage T2c or greater and/or Gleason score 7 or more and/or PSA greater than 10 ng/mL. These guidelines also note inadequate information exists to recommend supplemental EBRT-based on perineural invasion, percent positive biopsies, and/or magnetic resonance imaging-detected extracapsular penetration.

In an Institute for Clinical and Economic Review report, it is noted a criterion standard treatment approach for the management of low-risk prostate cancer is not available.(30) This report found there are no randomized controlled trials comparing brachytherapy with other treatment approaches and limited high-quality data are available, making it difficult to compare the effectiveness of treatment options. The report concludes rates of survival and tumor recurrence are similar in each of the following treatment options for low-risk prostate cancer: active surveillance, brachytherapy, intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy, and proton beam therapy.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) and American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) guidelines on permanent brachytherapy indicate permanent low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is appropriate in low- to intermediate-risk patients.(31) These guidelines also note EBRT may be added to permanent brachytherapy in high-risk protocols. ACR/ASTRO exclusion criteria for permanent brachytherapy include: life expectancy less than 5 years; unacceptable operative risk; poor anatomy that prevents a quality implant; positive lymph nodes by pathology; significant obstructive uropathy, and distant metastases. ACR-ASTRO also notes IMRT is a widely used treatment option for many indications including prostate tumors.(32)

ACR also developed appropriateness criteria for permanent brachytherapy.(33) ACR found brachytherapy offers “favorable morbidity profiles and durable biochemical control rates for patients with low-, intermediate-, and high-risk features.” Favorable outcomes are noted as being dependent on having a quality implant. The role of EBRT in addition to permanent brachytherapy for higher risk patients is uncertain.

Medicare National Coverage

Brachytherapy sources and services for administration and delivery of brachytherapy are covered by Medicare.


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  12. Martinez AA, Demanes J, Vargas C et al. High-dose-rate prostate brachytherapy: an excellent accelerated-hypofractionated treatment for favorable prostate cancer. Am J Clin Oncol 2010; 33(5):481-8.
  13. Coen JJ, Zietman AL, Rossi CJ et al. Comparison of high-dose proton radiotherapy and brachytherapy in localized prostate cancer: a case-matched analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2012; 82(1):e25-31.
  14. Nepple KG, Stephenson AJ, Kallogjeri D et al. Mortality After Prostate Cancer Treatment with Radical Prostatectomy, External-Beam Radiation Therapy, or Brachytherapy in Men Without Comorbidity. Eur Urol 2013.
  15. Williams SB, Lei Y, Nguyen PL et al. Comparative effectiveness of cryotherapy vs brachytherapy for localised prostate cancer. BJU Int 2011.
  16. Kollmeier MA, Fidaleo A, Pei X et al. Favourable long-term outcomes with brachytherapy-based regimens in men </=60 years with clinically localized prostate cancer. BJU Int 2013.
  17. Buckstein M, Carpenter TJ, Stone NN et al. Long-term outcomes and toxicity in patients treated with brachytherapy for prostate adenocarcinoma younger than 60 years of age at treatment with minimum 10 years of follow-up. Urology 2013; 81(2):364-8.
  18. Merrick GS, Wallner KE, Butler WM et al. 20 Gy versus 44 Gy of supplemental external beam radiotherapy with palladium-103 for patients with greater risk disease: results of a prospective randomized trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2012; 82(3):e449-55.
  19. Hurwitz MD. Technology Insight: Combined external-beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy in the management of prostate cancer. Nat Clin Pract Oncol 2008; 5(11):668-76.
  20. Lee WR, DeSilvio M, Lawton C et al. A phase II study of external beam radiotherapy combined with permanent source brachytherapy for intermediate-risk, clinically localized adenocarcinoma of the prostate: preliminary results of RTOG P-0019. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2006; 64(3):804-9.
  21. Lawton CA, Yan Y, Lee WR et al. Long-Term Results of an RTOG Phase II Trial (00-19) of External-Beam Radiation Therapy Combined With Permanent Source Brachytherapy for Intermediate-Risk Clinically Localized Adenocarcinoma of the Prostate. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2012; 82(5):e795-801.
  22. Sylvester JE, Grimm PD, Blasko JC et al. 15-Year biochemical relapse free survival in clinical Stage T1-T3 prostate cancer following combined external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy; Seattle experience. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2007; 67(1):57-64.
  23. Dattoli M, Wallner K, True L et al. Long-term outcomes after treatment with brachytherapy and supplemental conformal radiation for prostate cancer patients having intermediate and high-risk features. Cancer 2007; 110(3):551-5.
  24. Koontz BF, Chino J, Lee WR et al. Morbidity and prostate-specific antigen control of external beam radiation therapy plus low-dose-rate brachytherapy boost for low, intermediate, and high-risk prostate cancer. Brachytherapy 2009; 8(2):191-6.
  25. Valerio M, Ahmed HU, Emberton M et al. The Role of Focal Therapy in the Management of Localised Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review. Eur Urol 2013. [Epub ahead of print].
  26. Nguyen PL, Chen MH, Zhang Y et al. Updated results of magnetic resonance imaging guided partial prostate brachytherapy for favorable risk prostate cancer: implications for focal therapy. J Urol 2012; 188(4):1151-6.
  27. Langley S, Ahmed HU, Al-Qaisieh B et al. Report of a consensus meeting on focal low dose rate brachytherapy for prostate cancer. BJU Int 2012; 109 Suppl 1:7-16.
  28. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Prostate cancer. Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, v.2.2014. Available online at: Last accessed May, 2014.
  29. Grills IS, Martinez AA, Hollander M et al. High dose rate brachytherapy as prostate cancer monotherapy reduces toxicity compared to low dose rate palladium seeds. J Urol 2004; 171(3):1098-104.
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CPT  55875 Transperineal placement of needles or catheters into prostate for interstitial radioelement application, with or without cystoscopy
  76873  Ultrasound, prostate volume study for brachytherapy treatment planning (separate procedure)
  77326 - 77328 Brachytherapy isodose calculation, code range 
  77402 - 77406 Radiation treatment delivery, single treatment area, code range (used for EBRT) 
  77776 - 77778 Interstitial radioelement application, code range
ICD-9 Procedure   92.27  Implantation/insertion of radioactive elements 
ICD-9 Diagnosis  185 Malignant neoplasm of the prostate
HCPCS C1715 Brachytherapy needle
   C1728 Catheter, brachytherapy seed administration
   C2634 Brachytherapy source, nonstranded, high activity, iodine-125, greater than 1.01 mCi (NIST), per source
   C2635 Brachytherapy source, nonstranded, high activity, palladium-103, greater than 2.2. mCi (NIST), per source
   C2636 Brachytherapy linear source, nonstranded, palladium-103, per 1 mm
   C2637 Brachytherapy source, nonstranded, ytterbium-169
  C2638 Brachytherapy source, stranded, iodine-125, per source
   C2639 Brachytherapy source, non-stranded, iodine-125, per source
   C2640 Brachytherapy source, stranded, palladium-103, per source
   C2641 Brachytherapy source, non-stranded, palladium-103, per source
   C2642 Brachytherapy source, stranded, cesium-131, per source
   C2643 Brachytherapy source, nonstanded, cesium-131, per source
   C2698 Brachytherapy source, stranded, not otherwise specified, per source
   C2699 Brachytherapy source, nonstranded, not otherwise specified, per source
   Q3001  Radioelements for brachytherapy, any type, each
(effective 10/1/15)
C61 Malignant neoplasm of prostate
(effective 10/1/15)
  ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services.
   DV1097Z, DV1098Z, DV1099Z, DV109BZ, DV109CZ, DV109YZ Radiation oncology, male reproductive system, brachytherapy, prostate, high dose rate, code by isotope (cesium 137, iridium 192, iodine 125, palladium 103, californium 252, other isotope)
   DV10B7Z, DV10B8Z,
Radiation oncology, male reproductive system, brachytherapy, prostate, low dose rate, code by isotope (cesium 137, iridium 192, iodine 125, palladium 103, californium 252, other isotope)
   0VH001Z, 0VH031Z,
0VH041Z, 0VH071Z,
Surgical, male reproductive system, insertion, prostate, radioactive element, code by approach
Type of Service  Oncology
Place of Service  Outpatient


Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer, Brachytherapy
Radioactive Seeds
Policy History
Date Action Reason
7/31/97 Add to Therapy section New policy
12/18/02 Replace policy Policy updated and retired; policy statement unchanged, still considered investigational, but additional discussion provided regarding patient preference issues.
05/14/09 Replace policy Policy returned to active review. Policy updated and rationale extensively updated. New reference numbers 2 and 4-8 added. Policy statements changed to indicate permanent brachytherapy may be considered medically necessary as monotherapy and when combined with EBRT.
5/12/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; policy statements unchanged. Reference numbers 8-13 and 15-17 added; reference number 14 updated
06/14/12 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review; investigational policy statement added on focal or subtotal prostate brachytherapy. Information on use of IMRT added to Policy Guidelines. Reference numbers 1-2, 4-5, 13-14, 17, 21 and 26-27 added
6/13/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through April 2013; policy statements unchanged. Reference numbers 13, 15-16 added; reference numbers 6, 25, 27 and 29 updated
6/12/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through May 26, 2014; policy statements unchanged. References 1 and 25-26 added.


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