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MP 8.01.33 High-Dose Rate Temporary Prostate Brachytherapy

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/6:2014
  Return to Medical Policy Index


Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract.  Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage.  Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically. 


High-dose rate (HDR) temporary prostate brachytherapy is a technique of delivering a high-intensity radiation source directly to the prostate gland for the treatment of prostate cancer. The radiation source is inserted through hollow catheters or needles inserted precisely into several areas of the prostate gland using ultrasound guidance and treatment planning computed tomography or ultrasound images. The radiation source is allowed to dwell in the target areas until the prescribed radiation dose is reached and is then removed with the goal of increasing direct tumor necrosis while reducing toxicity and surrounding tissue damage.


Prostate brachytherapy can be delivered in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most familiar technique is the use of radioactive seeds permanently implanted into prostate tissue. These seeds contain isotopes that slowly emit radiation of relatively low energy. In contrast, temporary prostate brachytherapy involves use of higher energy radioisotopes such as iridium-192. These isotopes deliver radiation at higher dose rates, which may be more effective in destroying rapidly dividing cancer cells. In this technique, needle catheters are placed into the prostate gland using transrectal ultrasound guidance. Once the needles are placed, a dosimetric plan is developed, and the radioactive source is inserted into each needle using an afterloading device. The radioactive source is left in the needle for a predetermined time, called the “dwell” time. The radiation usually is delivered once or twice daily over a course of several days. The dwell time can be altered at various positions along the needle’s length to control dose distribution to the target volume and critical surrounding structures, such as the rectum or urethra. This strategy contrasts with permanent seed implantation in which dosimetry is calculated prior to needle placement and which cannot be altered after seed implantation. The treatment typically consists of 4000 to 5000 cGy delivered with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) to the prostate and periprostatic tissues, while HDR brachytherapy is used as the method of dose escalation to the prostate gland. The total boost doses are variable. In addition, studies are also being conducted using HDR brachytherapy as the sole treatment modality (monotherapy) in those with prostate cancer.

It is an accepted premise that increasing doses of radiation therapy are associated with improved biochemical control (ie, stable levels of prostate-specific antigen [PSA]), and thus there has been keen interest in exploring different techniques of dose escalation while simultaneously limiting both early and late toxicities in surrounding tissues. In patients with locally advanced disease, it is hypothesized that local failure may be related to the large volume of tumor and radioresistant cell clones, both of which might respond to higher radiation doses. HDR brachytherapy has been primarily investigated as an adjunct to EBRT as a technique of dose escalation. Other techniques for dose escalation include EBRT using intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for treatment planning and delivery, proton beam radiotherapy (which may also use IMRT), or EBRT combined with brachytherapy using interstitial seeds.


High-dose rate (HDR) prostate brachytherapy may be considered medically necessary as monotherapy or in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy in the treatment of localized prostate cancer.

High-dose rate prostate brachytherapy is considered investigational in the treatment of prostate cancer when used as salvage therapy.

Policy Guidelines 

High-dose rate brachytherapy as monotherapy is being used in low- and intermediate-risk patients with localized prostate cancer. HDB combined with EBRT (3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy [3D-CRT], intensity-modulated, or proton) may be used for more advanced or aggressive prostate cancers. Adequate dose escalation should be achieved with combination HDR temporary 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. Permanent low-dose rate (LDR) 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 is used (sometimes along with androgen deprivation) to treat higher risk disease.

Prostate cancer risk is often defined using the following criteria:

  • Low risk: PSA 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 CPT coding for HDR prostate brachytherapy will consist of a series of CPT codes describing the treatment planning, dosimetry, and delivery of radiation therapy. These codes overlap with those describing brachytherapy using permanent seed implantation. However, because the therapy is given over a course of several days, the last 2 CPT codes listed below may be used more than once.

76873: Ultrasound, transrectal; prostate volume study for brachytherapy treatment planning

77326-77328: Brachytherapy isodose calculation; simple, intermediate, or complex

77776-77778: Interstitial radiation source application, simple, intermediate, or complex

77790: Supervision handling, loading of radiation source

The surgical code for placement of the brachytherapy catheter is:

55875: Transperineal placement of needles or catheters into prostate for interstitial radioelement application, with or without cystoscopy

Effective 1/1/09, there are new codes specific to afterloading of high-dose rate brachytherapy:

77785: Remote afterloading high-dose rate radionuclide brachytherapy; 1 channel

77786: 2-12 channels

77787: over 12 channels

Benefit Application

BlueCard/National Account Issues

High-dose rate brachytherapy is not a widely disseminated procedure, and thus patients seeking this therapy may request access to an out-of-network facility.



This policy was originally created in 2000 and was updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature review was performed through May 26, 2014. The following is a summary of the key literature to date.

An evidence-based approach to the analysis of data on the various treatment options for prostate cancer is problematic for the following reasons:

  • The lack of controlled clinical trials comparing various different treatment options in homogeneous groups of patients. Thus far, the only randomized comparisons of alternatives for managing early-stage prostate cancer compared active surveillance (watchful waiting) with radical prostatectomy,(1) and external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) with high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy or with EBRT alone.(2,3)
  • Similar trials are limited to compare surgery with radiation or to compare different methods of radiation. In a recent review of 2991 consecutive patients receiving a variety of therapies for localized prostate cancer, the authors concluded that it is still not possible to determine which of the treatment options leads to the best metastasis-free or overall survival (OS). Therefore, at the present time, there is no evidence-based criterion standard of treatment, which limits the ability to assess emerging approaches.(4)
  • The numerous patient variables, including tumor stage, size of tumor (ie, percent positive biopsy score), Gleason score, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level.
  • The indolent natural history of many early-stage prostate cancers, requiring prolonged follow-up to determine final patient outcomes.
  • A variety of intermediate outcomes have been used, most commonly biochemical failure as evidenced by rising PSA levels.
  • The evolving nature of radiotherapy. Over the past 10 years, major advances have occurred in the planning and delivery of radiotherapy, including conformal therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), both of which permit dose escalation. There are variables in the total dosage of radiotherapy, variations in the planning and delivery of radiotherapy, and multiple different combinations of therapy (ie, EBRT plus brachytherapy). Fractionation of doses is another treatment variable that intends to balance the treatment effectiveness with both early and late morbidities to surrounding normal tissues.
  • The role of dose escalation in radiotherapy of prostate cancer. A dose-response relationship in the treatment of prostate cancer is generally accepted among clinicians and physicists, and in fact serves as the scientific rationale of HDR brachytherapy, as well as other recent techniques for radiation planning and delivery (ie, IMRT). While a few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have examined this issue, the data suggest that dose escalation is associated with improved biochemical control.(5) However, data regarding the impact of total radiation dose on survival among patients with different prognostic factors are minimal. In addition, the optimal radiotherapy dose is unknown.(6)

Related Policy No. 8.01.14, on conventional brachytherapy (using permanently implanted seeds), notes that while final health outcomes are not available, thus limiting scientific conclusions, conventional brachytherapy had become widely accepted by patients and physicians and may be considered a reasonable treatment option. Large case series of conventional brachytherapy have reported data on both morbidity and the intermediate outcome of biochemical relapse-free survival (RFS) (ie, survival-free from increasing PSA levels). These studies show that conventional brachytherapy is associated with similar outcomes when compared with the alternative (EBRT). Therefore, given the uncertainty for choosing between the established treatment options of watchful waiting, radical prostatectomy, EBRT, or conventional brachytherapy, some may consider patient preference to be particularly appropriate in selecting conventional brachytherapy. Questions have also been asked about patient acceptance of HDR brachytherapy compared with low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy. Given these significant limitations, the following results have been reported for HDR as an adjunct to EBRT.

Systematic/literature reviews

In 2014, Zaorsky reviewed 38 prospective and retrospective studies reporting on a total of 8008 patients treated with HDR brachytherapy for prostate cancer.(7) Five-year freedom from biochemical failure rates were 85% to 100% for low-risk, 80% to 98% for intermediate-risk, 59% to 96% for high-risk, and 34% to 85% for locally advanced patients. In all risk groups, 5-year rates of cancer-specific survival, overall survival, local recurrence and distant metastases were 99% to 100%, 85% to 100%, 0% to 8%, and 2% to 12%, respectively. Late Radiation Therapy Oncology Group grade 3 to 4 genitourinary (GU) or gastrointestinal (GI) toxicities occurred in less than 6% of patients. Comparisons of HDR brachytherapy to other radiation techniques were inconclusive. Interpretation of results from the review is limited by reports from single-institution studies, the lack of comparative studies, and insufficient reporting on toxicity and quality of life.

In 2011, Bannuru et al analyzed 75 studies (10 RCTs, 65 nonrandomized comparative studies) on radiotherapy for clinically localized prostate cancer.(8) Radiation therapies included brachytherapy, 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. Yamada et al conducted a review of the literature and published consensus guidelines for HDR brachytherapy for the American Brachytherapy Society in 2012.(9) The authors reported dosing schedule differences and heterogeneous studies make HDR brachytherapy difficult to evaluate systematically. However, HDR brachytherapy was found to have favorable 5-year biochemical disease control ranging from 85% to 100% for low-risk, 83% to 98% for intermediate-risk, and 51% to 96% for high-risk prostate cancer.

HDR brachytherapy with EBRT

Randomized controlled trials

Hoskin et al reported on a European single-center randomized trial of 220 patients that was conducted between 1997 and 2005, which compared 55 Gy of EBRT with 35.75 Gy of EBRT with HDR brachytherapy.(3) With a median follow-up of 30 months, the authors noted an improvement in actuarial biochemical RFS, as well as a lower incidence of acute rectal discharge. In 2012, Hoskin et al subsequently reported on longer term follow-up of 218 patients from this phase 3 trial.(2) Seventy-six percent of patients also received androgen-deprivation therapy. Biochemical RFS was greater in the combination treatment group after 4 years, with a median time to relapse of 116 months versus 74 months in the EBRT-only treatment group. Estimates of biochemical RFS for the combination group at 5, 7, and 10 years were 75%, 66%, and 46% versus 61%, 48% and 39% for the EBRT-only group, all respectively (p=0.04). However, OS was not significantly different between treatment arms. Estimates of OS for the combination group at 5, 7, and 10 years were 88%, 81% and 67% versus 89%, 88%, and 79% for the EBRT-only group, all respectively (p=0.2). Severe urinary symptoms (26% to 31%) and bowel events (6% to 7%) were not significantly different between groups at 5 and 7 years. Erectile dysfunction rates were not reported.

Nonrandomized, comparative studies

In a case series at William Beaumont Hospital (WBH) in Royal Oak, Michigan, Martinez et al reported on 472 patients with intermediate- to high-risk prostate cancer (PSA level, ≥10 ng/mL; and/or a Gleason score, ≥7; and/or clinical stage, ≥T2b) treated with pelvic EBRT and an HDR boost using ultrasound guidance during the period of 1992 to 2007.(10) Patients received a hypofractionated regimen of pelvic EBRT delivered in 23 fractions of 2 Gy for a total dose of 46 Gy over a 5-week period. Initially, HDR brachytherapy consisted of 3 implants of 5.5 Gy, 6.0 Gy, and 6.5 Gy each. Subsequently, the HDR brachytherapy dosages were changed to 2 implants using 8.25 Gy, 8.75 Gy, 9.5 Gy, 10.5 Gy, and 11.5 Gy to achieve dosages equivalent to the 3 implant dosages delivered initially in the study. EBRT was not delivered on the days the patients received HDR brachytherapy boost (eg, on days 5 and 15 when 2 implants were used). The authors reported the 10-year results were significantly better in the groups that received higher dose levels (ie, >268 Gy biologically equivalent dose), using the Phoenix definition for biochemical failure (43.1% vs 18.9%), clinical failure (23.4% vs 7.7%), and distant metastasis (12.4% vs 5.7%, all respectively). Biologically equivalent dose (BED) is calculated to obtain a more significant measure of the dose absorbed by the prostate tissue rather than simply the quantity of radiation dose delivered. In this study, BED was calculated with an alpha/beta ratio of 1.2 Gy. Overall survival at 10 years was better in the higher dose group, but the difference was not statistically significant. Adverse events included grade 3 GU and GI tract complications of 2% to 3% and less than 5%, respectively.

Researchers at WBH reported on the outcomes of a series of 207 patients treated between 1991 and 2000.(11) All patients had poor prognostic factors, which included tumor stage T2B, a Gleason score of 7, or a PSA greater than 10 ng/mL. EBRT was alternated with HDR radiotherapy as a boost. At a mean follow-up of 4.7 years, overall biochemical control rate was 74%, but was 85% if 1 poor prognostic factor was present, 75% if 2 were present, and 50% if all 3 were present. Late toxicity was minimal. The authors suggest that these results are similar or better than other treatment alternatives for prostate cancer with poor prognostic features.

An international group of investigators reported on the use of HDR brachytherapy as an adjunct to conformal EBRT with or without androgen-deprivation therapy in a case series of 611 patients.(12) A total of 209 patients were treated at WBH, and thus it is likely that there are overlapping patients with the study previously reviewed. While the authors reported that adjunctive HDR was associated with excellent long-term outcomes in terms of biochemical control, disease-free survival and cause-specific survival, interpretation of the findings is limited due to the absence of a control group.

Investigators from the California Endocurietherapy (CET) Cancer Center reported on outcomes (median follow-up, 7.25 years) of 209 consecutive patients with localized prostate cancer treated with HDR brachytherapy combined with EBRT.(13) The PSA PFS rate was 90%, 87%, and 69% for the low-, intermediate-, and high-risk groups, respectively.

Phan et al reported on a case series of 309 patients treated with EBRT (40-45 Gy) and HDR brachytherapy (22-24 Gy).(14) At a median follow-up of 59 months, the 5-year biochemical control rate was 86%, and OS was 91%; rates were higher for those with lower-risk disease. However, these results are difficult to interpret without having a comparison group.

Khor et al reported on a matched pair analysis of 344 patients who received EBRT (46 Gy in 23 fractions) plus HDR brachytherapy (19.5 Gy in 3 fractions) compared with 344 patients who received only EBRT (74 Gy in 37 fractions) for intermediate- or high-risk prostate cancer.(15) Median biochemical follow-up was 60.5 months. Freedom from biochemical failure at 5 years was 79.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 74.3% to 85.0%) for the HDR brachytherapy group and 70.9% (95% CI, 65.4% to 76.0%) for the EBRT only group. However, significantly more grade 3 urethral strictures occurred with HDR brachytherapy (11.8%) than EBRT (0.3%; p<0.001).

In a retrospective analysis, Deutsch et al compared patients who had received HDR brachytherapy and IMRT to those who had received ultra-high dose IMRT alone for low- to high-risk prostate cancer.(16) In the HDR and IMRT treatment group, 160 patients received 3 fractions of HDR dosages of 5.5 to 7.0 Gy, delivered once on the day of implant and twice on the next day, followed with IMRT 1 month later at a dose of 45.0 to 50.4 Gy. The ultra-high dose IMRT group of 470 patients received 86.4 Gy delivered in 48 fractions with 5 to 7 beams of 15-MV photons. In the only outcome measured in this analysis, overall, the HDR and IMRT group had statistically significant improvement in the 5-year PSA RFS (PSA nadir + 2) compared with IMRT alone (97.7% vs 82%, respectively; p<0.001). The authors hypothesized the higher BED in HDR and IMRT (229 Gy) may have translated to better outcomes than the highest BED of IMRT alone (190.08 Gy). When the risk groups were separated out, the PSA-relapse survival for HDR plus IMRT over IMRT remained significant in the intermediate-risk group (98% vs 84%, respectively; p=0.001). However, improvement was not significant in the low-risk group (100% vs 98%) or the high-risk group (93% vs 71%, both respectively; p=0.23). The authors noted having fewer patients in the low- and high-risk groups may have influenced results. Additionally, androgen-deprivation therapy may have confounded the outcomes in the high-risk group.

In another retrospective comparison of HDR brachytherapy and IMRT compared with IMRT alone, Wilder et al found no significant differences in 3-year biochemical disease-free (PSA nadir + 2) survival between treatment groups in low-, intermediate-, and high-risk patients (100% vs 100%, 98% vs 100%. and 93% vs 67%, all respectively).(17) The rates of toxicity incidence were reported to be similar in both treatment groups. In this study, 240 patients received HDR boost at 5.5 Gy twice on the day of implant and again 1 week later totaling 22 Gy followed by IMRT of up to 50.4 Gy administered 1 to 4 days later. The 44 patients in the IMRT-alone group received 79 to 81 Gy. The BEDs calculated at an alpha/beta ratio of 1.5 Gy were 213.6 Gy in the HDR and IMRT group versus 174.2 to 178.2 Gy in the IMRT-alone group. The authors noted longer follow-up is needed to further understand the roles of HDR and IMRT in prostate cancer treatment.

HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy

Publications on use of HDR as monotherapy for treatment of prostate cancer are fewer than those that report its use as combined modality therapy with EBRT. In 2013, Tselis et al reported on short-term outcomes of 351 patients with clinically localized prostate cancer treated with HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy.(18) At 36 and 60 months, biochemical control rates were 98% and 94% and metastasis-free survival rates were 99% and 98%, all respectively. No acute grade 3 GI toxicity occurred and acute grade 3 GU events were 4.8%. Late grade 3 GU toxicity events were 3.4% and GI toxicity events were 1.4%. There were no grade 4 or greater acute or late adverse events reported.

Demanes et al reported on a prospective case series of 298 patients with previously untreated low- to intermediate-risk localized prostate cancer (median PSA, 6.0 ng/mL) treated with HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy between 1996 and 2005 at CET and WBH. Each facility used a different treatment protocol.(19) At CET, a total of 42 Gy in 6 fractions of 7 Gy were delivered using computed tomography images for treatment planning. WBH used a total of 38 Gy delivered in 4 fractions of 9.5 Gy with ultrasound images used for treatment planning. At 8-year follow-up, the authors reported 99% local control, 97% biochemical control (using the Phoenix definition defined as PSA nadir + 2), 99% distant metastasis-free survival, 99% cause-specific survival, and 95% OS. Grade 2 urinary frequency or urgency was transient in 10% of patients, while grade 3 urinary retention was experienced in 3% of patients. GI tract toxicity was reported to be less than 1%. The authors attribute the low rate of adverse effects to the precision of HDR dosimetry and concluded HDR monotherapy is safe and effective in this population. In a study from the same institutions, Martinez et al reported on a nonrandomized study comparing 454 patients treated with either palladium-103 seed LDR brachytherapy (206 patients) or HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy (171 patients) received at WBH during the period of 1993 through 2004.(20) The patients at WBH selected which treatment option they received. Also included in the study analysis were 77 patients who received HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy at 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 to T2a disease. The HDR brachytherapy dosages were the same as in the previously discussed Demanes et al study (9.5 Gy ´ 4 at WBH and 7 Gy ´ 6 at CET). Treatment outcomes at 5 years included biochemical control rates (PSA nadir + 2) 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 toxicities were seen in the LDR group. Potency was 30% in the LDR group and 20% in the HDR groups. The authors of this study concluded HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy is an acceptable choice for treatment of favorable risk prostate cancer. It is likely that there are overlapping patients in the studies previously reviewed that were conducted at WBH. However, the authors do not comment on this.

Corner et al published results of a phase 2 study of HDR brachytherapy as monotherapy in 110 patients treated with 3 regimens: 34 Gy in 4 fractions, 36 Gy in 4 fractions, and 31.5 Gy in 3 fractions.(21) At 6 months, 2 patients had grade 3 bladder toxicity, and 1 patient had grade 2 GI tract toxicity. No PSA relapses have been detected, although the median follow-up was just 12 months among the 55 patients who received 31.5 Gy. The authors concluded that these early results suggest an excellent biochemical response with no differences seen in acute and late toxicity among the 3 regimens. Grills et al reported on a series of 149 patients with early-stage prostate cancer who were treated with either permanent or temporary (HDR) brachytherapy monotherapy at 1 center.(22) In this series, patients selected which of the 2 treatments they would receive. Treatments were given between 1999 and 2001. The authors note lower acute grade 1 to 3 symptoms in the HDR group, but many of these symptoms were grade 1. The reported rates of grade 2 and 4 chronic GU toxicity did not vary and were 23%. The impotence rate was 16% in the HDR group and 45% in the LDR group. Levels of biochemical control were similar in the 2 groups with median follow-up of 35 months. Given the nonrandom assignment of patients in this single institution study, additional confirmatory trials may be useful.

Salvage HDR brachytherapy

Data on using HDR as salvage treatment following failed prior radiotherapy are limited. Chen et al reported on a retrospective analysis of 52 men with locally recurrent prostate cancer treated consecutively with salvage HDR (36 Gy in 6 fractions).(23) Median follow-up was 59.6 months. Median survival was not yet reached, but estimated 5-year OS was 92% (95% CI, 80% to 97%) and 5-year biochemical control using the Phoenix definition was 51% (95% CI, 34% to 66%). Acute GI tract events of grade 2 or higher did not occur. Late grade 2 GI events occurred in 4%. Acute grade 3 GU tract toxicity occurred in 2%. Late grade 3 GU tract toxicity occurred in 2%.

Jo et al reported on 11 patients with radiorecurrent local prostate cancer who received salvage high-dose rate brachytherapy with EBRT (n=10) or proton beam (n=1). (24) During mean follow-up of 29 months (range, 18-41 months), PSA levels remained low in 7 patients but rose in 4 patients. No grade 3 adverse events were reported.

Ongoing Clinical Trials

A May 26, 2014 search of online site identified several active studies on HDR brachytherapy for prostate cancer treatment. In a phase 3, prospective, multicenter, randomized trial, 1520 patients with intermediate-risk prostate cancer will be studied to compare dose-escalated radiotherapy (EBRT or EBRT with HDR or LDR brachytherapy) with or without short-term androgen deprivation therapy (NCT00936390). Conventionally fractionated conformal radiotherapy (CF-CRT) versus CF-CRT combined with HRD brachytherapy or stereotactic body radiotherapy will be studied in a randomized Phase 3 clinical trial of 350 men with intermediate- and high-risk prostate cancer in Poland (NCT01839994).

At Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, HDR brachytherapy as salvage therapy will be studied for locally recurrent prostate cancer in 40 patients previously treated with EBRT (NCT00604526).

In NCT00913939, HDR brachytherapy delivered with magnetic resonance imaging guidance will be studied in 60 patients who have either locally advanced or locally recurrent after EBRT prostate cancer. In NCT00807820, magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to deliver HDR brachytherapy to the dominant intraprostatic lesion in 10 patients. This study has been completed.

Clinical Input Received Through Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

In response to requests, input was received from 2 physician specialty societies (4 reviews) and 2 academic medical centers while this policy was under review for March 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. There was generally strong support for use of HDR (as monotherapy and with EBRT) as an option in the treatment of prostate cancer.


High-dose rate (HDR) temporary prostate brachytherapy is a technique of delivering a high-intensity radiation source directly to the prostate gland for the treatment of prostate cancer. Based on data from published studies and clinical input, its use may be considered medically necessary combined with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) in the treatment of patients with localized prostate cancer. While data on HDR monotherapy are more limited, given what is known about temporary and permanent brachytherapy and based on existing data and clinical input, HDR monotherapy may also be considered an option. While quality studies differentiating superiority of any type of radiation technique are not available, the available evidence for use of HDR prostate brachytherapy as monotherapy or in conjunction with EBRT in the treatment of localized (organ-confined) prostate cancer is sufficient to conclude treatments result in improvement in net health outcome.

Because published data are still limited and clinical trials are ongoing, use of HDR in the treatment of prostate cancer as salvage therapy is considered investigational.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines (v.2.2014) for the treatment of prostate cancer indicate HDR brachytherapy alone or combined with EBRT (40-50 Gy) may be used instead of LDR brachytherapy to increase the dose of radiation for intermediate- to high-risk patients.(25) Boost regimens commonly used include 9.5 to 11.5 Gy ´ 2 fractions, 5.5 to 7.5 Gy ´ 3 fractions, and 4.0 to 6.0 Gy ´ 4 fractions. For HDR brachytherapy alone, 13.5 ´ 2 fractions is a commonly used regimen. HDR brachytherapy may also be considered to treat local recurrence after EBRT or primary brachytherapy. HDR dosages for recurrence range from 9 to 12 Gy ´ 2 fractions, depending on the primary radiation dosage delivered.

The American Brachytherapy Society (ABS) Prostate High-Dose Rate Task Group(26) provides the following patient selection criteria for monotherapy: clinical stage T1b to T2b and Gleason score equal to or less than 7, and/or PSA equal to or less than 10 ng/mL. For HDR boost, ABS patient selection criteria includes: patients with high-risk features such as T3 to T4, Gleason score 7 to 10, and/or PSA greater than 10 ng/mL or patients with bulky T1 to 2b tumor. ABS published a review of the literature and consensus guidelines for HDR brachytherapy in 2012 as previously noted.(9) ABS recommends HDR brachytherapy with or without EBRT for various risk levels of localized prostate cancer especially for intermediate- or high-risk patients as a boost with EBRT. ABS guidelines note HDR brachytherapy is contraindicated in patients, who have a preexisting rectal fistula, are unable to tolerate anesthesia and/or have no proof of malignancy. HDR monotherapy is considered investigational for high-risk patients by the ABS. HDR monotherapy as salvage treatment is only recommended for use in specialty centers or Institutional Review Board-approved protocols.

American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for HDR brachytherapy for prostate cancer were issued in 2014.(27) ACR indicates HDR monotherapy, HDR with EBRT, and HDR as salvage treatment may be appropriate treatment options.

Medicare National Coverage

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


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  2. Hoskin PJ, Rojas AM, Bownes PJ et al. Randomised trial of external beam radiotherapy alone or combined with high-dose-rate brachytherapy boost for localised prostate cancer. Radiother Oncol 2012; 103(2):217-22.
  3. Hoskin PJ, Motohashi K, Bownes P et al. High dose rate brachytherapy in combination with external beam radiotherapy in the radical treatment of prostate cancer: initial results of a randomised phase three trial. Radiother Oncol 2007; 84(2):114-20.
  4. Kupelian PA, Potters L, Khuntia D et al. Radical prostatectomy, external beam radiotherapy <72 Gy, external beam radiotherapy > or =72 Gy, permanent seed implantation, or combined seeds/external beam radiotherapy for stage T1-T2 prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2004; 58(1):25-33.
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  11. Martinez A, Gonzalez J, Spencer W et al. Conformal high dose rate brachytherapy improves biochemical control and cause specific survival in patients with prostate cancer and poor prognostic factors. J Urol 2003; 169(3):974-9; discussion 79-80.
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  13. Demanes DJ, Rodriguez RR, Schour L et al. High-dose-rate intensity-modulated brachytherapy with external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer: California endocurietherapy's 10-year results. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2005; 61(5):1306-16.
  14. Phan TP, Syed AM, Puthawala A et al. High dose rate brachytherapy as a boost for the treatment of localized prostate cancer. J Urol 2007; 177(1):123-7; discussion 27.
  15. Khor R, Duchesne G, Tai KH et al. Direct 2-arm comparison shows benefit of high-dose-rate brachytherapy boost vs external beam radiation therapy alone for prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2013; 85(3):679-85.
  16. Deutsch I, Zelefsky MJ, Zhang Z et al. Comparison of PSA relapse-free survival in patients treated with ultra-high-dose IMRT versus combination HDR brachytherapy and IMRT. Brachytherapy 2010; 9(4):313-8.
  17. Wilder RB, Barme GA, Gilbert RF et al. Preliminary results in prostate cancer patients treated with high-dose-rate brachytherapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) vs. IMRT alone. Brachytherapy 2010; 9(4):341-8.
  18. Tselis N, Tunn UW, Chatzikonstantinou G et al. High dose rate brachytherapy as monotherapy for localised prostate cancer: a hypofractionated two-implant approach in 351 consecutive patients. Radiat Oncol 2013; 8:115.
  19. Demanes DJ, Martinez AA, Ghilezan M et al. High-dose-rate monotherapy: safe and effective brachytherapy for patients with localized prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011; 81(5):1286-92.
  20. 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.
  21. Corner C, Rojas AM, Bryant L et al. A Phase II study of high-dose-rate afterloading brachytherapy as monotherapy for the treatment of localized prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2008; 72(2):441-6.
  22. 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.
  23. Chen CP, Weinberg V, Shinohara K et al. Salvage HDR Brachytherapy for Recurrent Prostate Cancer After Previous Definitive Radiation Therapy: 5-Year Outcomes. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2013; 86(2):324-9.
  24. Jo Y, Fujii T, Hara R et al. Salvage high-dose-rate brachytherapy for local prostate cancer recurrence after radiotherapy - preliminary results. BJU Int 2012; 109(6):835-9.
  25. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Prostate cancer. Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, v.2.2014. Available online at: Last accessed May 26, 2014.
  26. The American Brachytherapy Society (ABS). Prostate High-Dose Rate Task Group. Available online at: Last accessed May 26, 2014.
  27. Hsu IC, Yamada Y, Assimos DG et al. ACR Appropriateness Criteria high-dose-rate brachytherapy for prostate cancer. Brachytherapy 2014; 13(1):27-31.





CPT 55875 Transperineal placement of needles or catheters into prostate for interstitial radioelement application, with or without cystoscopy
  76873  Echography, transrectal; prostate volume study for brachytherapy treatment planning 
  77326 - 77328 Brachytherapy isodose calculation; simple, intermediate, or complex 
  77776 - 77778 Interstitial radioelement application, simple, intermediate, or complex 
  77785 - 77787 Remote afterloading high dose rate radionuclide brachytherapy code range 
  77790  Supervision handling, loading of radioelement 
ICD-9 Procedure  92.27  Implantation or insertion of radioactive elements 
ICD-9 Diagnosis  185  Malignant neoplasm of prostate 
HCPCS  C1717  Brachytherapy source, high dose rate iridium 192, per source 
  Q3001  Radioelements for brachytherapy, any type, each 
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15) C61 Malignant neoplasm of prostate
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15)   ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services.
  0VH031 Surgical, male reproductive system, insertion, prostrate percutaneous, radioactive element
Type of Service  Therapy 
Place of Service  Outpatient 


Brachytherapy, High-Dose Rate, Prostate Cancer
High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy, Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer, High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy  

Policy History

Date Action Reason
04/30/00 Add to Therapy section New policy
12/18/02 Replace policy Policy updated; policy statement unchanged
07/15/04 Replace policy Policy updated; policy statement unchanged, references added, Rationale revised
06/27/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; policy statement unchanged; reference number 8 added
07/20/06 Replace policy. Policy updated with literature search; policy statement unchanged. Reference 9 added. HCPCS coding updated.
08/02/07 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; remains investigational. Policy statement modified to indicate high-dose rate prostate brachytherapy considered investigational for dose escalation or as sole therapy. Reference numbers 10 to 16 added
05/14/09 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 17 – 19 added; clinical input reviewed. Policy revised to indicate that HDR may be considered medically necessary as monotherapy and when combined with EBRT in the treatment of prostate cancer. Remains investigational as salvage therapy. CPT coding updated.
5/12/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 19-23 and 25 added; reference 24 updated. Policy statements unchanged
06/14/12 Replace policy  Policy updated with literature search; reference numbers 2, 7-8, 20 added; references removed. Policy statements unchanged
6/13/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search through April 2013; reference numbers 14 and 21 added; references 23-24 updated. Policy statements unchanged
6/12/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through May 26, 2014; references 7, 18, and 27 added; reference 25 updated. Policy statements unchanged


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