Pending Policies - Surgery

Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) for the Treatment of Refractory Focal Epilepsy


Effective Date:08-15-2018



Responsive neurostimulation (RNS) may be considered medically necessary for patients with focal epilepsy who meet ALL of the following criteria:

Are 18 years or older;

Have a diagnosis of focal seizures with 1 or 2 well-localized seizure foci identified;

Have an average of 3 or more disabling seizures (e.g., motor focal seizures, complex focal seizures, or secondary generalized seizures) per month over the prior 3 months;

Are refractory to medical therapy (have failed ≥2 appropriate antiepileptic medications at therapeutic doses;

Are not candidates for focal resective epilepsy surgery (e.g., have an epileptic focus near eloquent cerebral cortex; have bilateral temporal epilepsy); and

Do not have ANY of the following contraindications for RNS device placement:

o Three or more specific seizure foci;

o Presence of primary generalized epilepsy; or

o Presence of a rapidly progressive neurologic disorder.

RNS is considered experimental investigational and/or unproven for all other indications.


Responsive neurostimulation (RNS) for the treatment of epilepsy involves the use of 1 or more implantable electric leads that serve both a seizure detection and neurostimulation function. The device is programmed using a proprietary algorithm to recognize seizure patterns from electrocorticography output and to deliver electrical stimulation with the goal of terminating a seizure.

Seizures and Seizure Disorders

Focal seizures (previously referred to as partial seizures) arise from a discrete area of the brain and can cause a range of symptoms, depending on the seizure type and the brain area involved.

Note that the term “focal seizure” in older literature may be referred to as “partial seizure”. A position paper from the International League Against Epilepsy (2017) outlined updated terminology for seizure and epilepsy subtypes. (1) For example, focal-onset seizures are subdivided based on the associated level of consciousness, and subsequently into whether they are motor or non-motor-onset.

Focal seizures are further grouped into simple focal seizures, which may be associated with motor, sensory, or autonomic symptoms, or complex partial seizures, in which consciousness is affected. Complex focal seizures may be associated with abnormal movements (automatisms). In some cases, focal seizures may result in secondary generalization, in which widespread brain electrical activity occurs after the onset of a focal seizure, thereby resulting in a generalized seizure.

Seizure disorders may be grouped into epileptic syndromes based on a number of factors, including the types of seizures that occur and their localization, the age of onset, patterns on electroencephalogram (EEG), associated clinical or neuroimaging findings, and genetic factors. Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common syndrome associated with focal seizures. Of those with focal seizures, 30% to 40% have intractable epilepsy, defined as a failure to control seizures after 2 seizure medications have been appropriately chosen and used. (2)

Epilepsy Treatment

Medical Therapy for Seizures

Standard therapy for seizures, including focal seizures, includes treatment with 1 or more of various of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) which include newer AEDs, like oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, topiramate, gabapentin, pregabalin, levetiracetam, tiagabine, and zonisamide. (3) Currently, response to AEDs is less than ideal: 1 systematic review comparing newer AEDs for refractory focal epilepsy reported an overall average responder rate in treatment groups of 34.8%. (3) As a result, a substantial number of patients do not achieve good seizure control with medications alone.

Surgical Therapy for Seizures

When a discrete seizure focus can be identified, seizure control may be achieved through resection of the seizure focus (epilepsy surgery). For temporal lobe epilepsy, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) has demonstrated that surgery for epilepsy was superior to prolonged medical therapy in reducing seizures associated with impaired awareness and in improving quality of life. (4) Surgery for refractory focal epilepsy (excluding simple focal seizures) is associated with 5-year rates freedom from seizure of 52%, with 28% of seizure-free individuals able to discontinue AEDs. (5) Selection of appropriate patients for epilepsy surgery is important, because those with nonlesional extratemporal lobe epilepsy have worse outcomes after surgery than those with nonlesional temporal lobe epilepsy. (6) Some patients are not candidates for epilepsy surgery if the seizure focus is located in an eloquent area of the brain or other region that cannot be removed without risk of significant neurologic deficit.

Neurostimulation for Neurologic Disorders

Electrical stimulation at one of several locations has been used as therapy for epilepsy, either as an adjunct to, or as an alternative to medical or surgical therapy. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been widely used for refractory epilepsy, following U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a VNS device in 1997 and 2 RCTs evaluating VNS in epilepsy. (7) Although the mechanism of action for VNS is not fully understood, VNS is thought to reduce seizure activity through activation of vagal visceral afferents with diffuse central nervous system projections, leading to a widespread effect on neuronal excitability.

Stimulation of other locations in the neuroaxis has been studied for a variety of neurologic disorders. Electrical stimulation at deep brain nuclei (deep brain stimulation [DBS]) involves the use of chronic, continuous stimulation of a target. It has been most widely used in the treatment of Parkinson disease and other movement disorders, and has been investigated for treating epilepsy. DBS of the anterior thalamic nuclei was studied in a RCT, the Stimulation of the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus for Epilepsy (SANTE) trial, but DBS is not currently approved by the FDA for stimulation of the anterior thalamic nucleus. (8) Stimulation of the cerebellar and hippocampal regions and the subthalamic, caudate, and centromedian nuclei have also been evaluated for the treatment of epilepsy. (7)

RNS for Epilepsy

RNS shares some features with DBS, but is differentiated by its use of direct cortical stimulation and by its use in both monitoring and stimulation. The RNS system provides stimulation in response to detection of specific epileptiform patterns, while DBS provides continuous or intermittent stimulation at preprogrammed settings.

Development of the RNS system arose from observations related to the effects of cortical electrical stimulation for seizure localization. It has been observed that electrical cortical stimulation can terminate induced and spontaneous electrographic seizure activity in humans and animals. (9) Patients with epilepsy may undergo implantation of subdural monitoring electrodes for the purposes of seizure localization, which at times have been used for neurostimulation to identify eloquent brain regions. Epileptiform discharges that occur during stimulation for localization can be stopped by a train of neighboring brief electrical stimulations. (10)

In tandem with the recognition that cortical stimulation may be able to stop epileptiform discharges was development of fast pre-ictal seizure prediction algorithms. These algorithms involve the interpretation of electrocorticographic data from detection leads situated over the cortex. The RNS process thus includes electrocorticographic monitoring via cortical electrodes, analysis of data through a proprietary seizure detection algorithm, and delivery of electrical stimulation via both cortical and deep implanted electrodes to attempt to halt a detected epileptiform discharge.

One system, the Neuropace RNS® System, is currently approved by the FDA and is commercially available. The system consists of an implantable neurostimulator, a cortical strip lead, a depth lead, a programmer and telemetry wand, and a patient data management system. Before device implantation, the patient undergoes seizure localization, which includes inpatient video-EEG monitoring and magnetic resonance imaging for detection of epileptogenic lesions. Additional testing may also include EEG with intracranial electrodes, intraoperative or extraoperative stimulation with subdural electrodes, additional imaging studies, and/or neuropsychological testing and intracarotid amytal (Wada) testing. The selection and location of the leads are based on the location of seizure foci. Cortical strip leads are recommended for seizure foci on the cortical surface, while the depth leads are recommended for seizure foci beneath the cortical surface. The implantable neurostimulator and cortical and/or depth leads are implanted intracranially. The neurostimulator is initially programmed in the operating room to detect electrocorticographic activity. Responsive therapy is initially set up using standard parameters from the electrodes from which electrical activity is detected. Over time, the responsive stimulation settings are adjusted on the basis of electrocorticography data, which are collected by the patient through interrogation of the device with the telemetry wand and transmitted to the data management system. (11)

RNS for Seizure Monitoring

Although the intent of the electrocorticography component of the RNS system is to provide input as a trigger for neurostimulation, it also provides continuous seizure mapping data (chronic unlimited cortical electrocorticography) that may be used by practitioners to evaluate patients’ seizures. In particular, the seizure mapping data have been used for surgical planning of patients who do not experience adequate seizure reduction with RNS placement. Several studies have described the use of RNS in evaluating seizure foci for epilepsy surgery (12) or for identifying whether seizure foci are unilateral. (13, 14)

This medical policy does not further address use of RNS exclusively for seizure monitoring.

Regulatory Status

In November 2013, the NeuroPace RNS® System (Neuropace) was approved by the FDA through the premarket approval process for the following indication (15): “The RNS® System is an adjunctive therapy in reducing the frequency of seizures in individuals 18 years of age or older with partial onset seizures who have undergone diagnostic testing that localized no more than 2 epileptogenic foci, are refractory to two or more antiepileptic medications, and currently have frequent and disabling seizures (motor partial seizures, complex partial seizures and/or secondarily generalized seizures). The RNS® System has demonstrated safety and effectiveness in patients who average 3 or more disabling seizures per month over the three most recent months (with no month with fewer than two seizures), and has not been evaluated in patients with less frequent seizures.”

FDA product code: PFN


This medical policy was originally created in November 2015 and has been updated regularly with searches of the MEDLINE database. The most recent literature review was performed through February 5, 2018.

Medical policies assess the clinical evidence to determine whether the use of a technology improves the net health outcome. Broadly defined, health outcomes are length of life, quality of life, and ability to function--including benefits and harms. Every clinical condition has specific outcomes that are important to patients and to managing the course of that condition. Validated outcome measures are necessary to ascertain whether a condition improves or worsens; and whether the magnitude of that change is clinically significant. The net health outcome is a balance of benefits and harms.

To assess whether the evidence is sufficient to draw conclusions about the net health outcome of a technology, 2 domains are examined: the relevance and the quality and credibility. To be relevant, studies must represent one or more intended clinical use of the technology in the intended population and compare an effective and appropriate alternative at a comparable intensity. For some conditions, the alternative will be supportive care or surveillance. The quality and credibility of the evidence depend on study design and conduct, minimizing bias and confounding that can generate incorrect findings. The randomized controlled trial (RCT) is preferred to assess efficacy; however, in some circumstances, nonrandomized studies may be adequate. RCTs are rarely large enough or long enough to capture less common adverse events and long-term effects. Other types of studies can be used for these purposes and to assess generalizability to broader clinical populations and settings of clinical practice.

For the evaluation of responsive neurostimulation (RNS) for focal epilepsy, the optimal study design would be a RCTs in which all subjects receive an RNS device but only the treatment group has the device activated (sham-controlled). Subjects with epilepsy may have a transient improvement in seizure frequency following any kind of neurosurgical intervention. Because RNS is considered for patients refractory to other treatments, the appropriate comparison group could consist of other treatments for focal epilepsy considered to be efficacious, including medical management, surgical management, other types of implanted stimulators (e.g., vagal nerve stimulators), or a combination. In patients with treatment-refractory epilepsy, the disease is expected to have a natural history involving persistent seizures. Therefore, studies that compare seizure rates and seizure-free status pre- and post-RNS treatment may also provide evidence about the efficacy of the RNS device.

The body of evidence addressing whether RNS is associated with improved health outcomes for patients with focal epilepsy includes an industry-sponsored RCT, which was used for the device’s U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, as well as multiple case series and case reports.

RNS for Treatment of Refractory Focal Epilepsy

Pivotal Trial

RNS for epilepsy was evaluated in the RNS System Pivotal Trial, a multicenter, double-blinded, sham-controlled trial that served as the basis of the FDA’s approval of the device. (16) Published by Morrell et al. (2011), this RCT included 191 patients with medically intractable partial epilepsy who were implanted with the RNS device and randomized to treatment or sham control after a 1-month postimplant period during which time no subjects had the device activated. Eligible patients were adults with focal seizures whose epilepsy had not been controlled with at least 2 trials of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), who had at least 3 disabling seizures (motor focal seizures, complex focal seizures, or secondary generalized seizures) per month on average, and who had standard diagnostic testing that localized 1 or 2 epileptogenic foci. Thirty-two percent of those implanted had prior epilepsy surgery, and 34% had a prior vagal nerve stimulator.

Patients were randomized to active stimulation (n=97) or sham stimulation (n=94). After the 4-week postoperative period, patients received either sham or active stimulation according to group assignment. There was a 4-week stimulation optimization period, followed by a 3-month blinded evaluation period. In the evaluation period, all outcome data were gathered by a physician blinded to group assignment, and the neurostimulator was managed by a nonblinded physician. One patient in each group did not complete the stimulus optimization period (one due to subject preference in the active stimulation group; one due to death in the sham stimulation group). An additional patient in each group did not complete the blinded evaluation phase due to emergent explant of the device. After the 3-month blinded evaluation period, all patients received active stimulation during an open-label follow-up period. At the time of the Morrell publication, 98 subjects had completed the open-label period and 78 had not. Eleven patients did not complete the open-label follow-up period (5 due to death, 2 to emergent explant, 4 to study withdrawal).

The trial’s primary effectiveness objective was to demonstrate a significantly greater reduction in the frequency of total disabling seizures in the treatment group compared with the sham group during the blinded evaluation period relative to baseline (preimplant). The mean preimplant seizure frequency per month in the treatment group was 33.5 (range, 3-295) and 34.9 (range, 3-338) in the sham group. (15) Mean seizure frequency modeled using generalized estimating equations was significantly reduced in the treatment group compared with the sham group (p=0.012). During the blinded evaluation period, the mean seizure frequency in the treatment group was 22.4 (range, 0.0-226.8) and 29.8 (range, 0.3-44.46) in the sham group. The treatment group experienced a -37.9% change in seizure frequency (95% confidence interval [CI], -46.7% to -27.7%), while the sham group experienced a -17.3% change in seizure frequency (95% CI, -29.9% to -2.3%).

By the third month of the blinded evaluation period, the treatment group had 27% fewer days with seizures while the sham group experienced 16% fewer days (p=0.048). There were no significant differences between groups over the blinded evaluation period for secondary end points of responder rate (proportion of subjects who experienced a ≥50% reduction in mean disabling seizure frequency vs the preimplant period), change in average frequency of disabling seizures, or change in seizure severity.

During the open-label period, subjects in the sham group demonstrated significant improvements in mean seizure frequency compared with the preimplant period (p=0.04). For all subjects (treatment and sham control), the responder rate at 1 year postimplant was 43%. Overall quality of life (QOL) scores improved for both groups compared with baseline at 1 year (p=0.001) and 2 years postimplant (p=0.016).

For the study’s primary safety end point, the significant adverse event rate over the first 28 days postimplant was 12%, which did not differ significantly from the prespecified literature-derived comparator of 15% for implantation of intracranial electrodes for seizure localization and epilepsy surgery. During the implant period and the blinded evaluation period, the significant adverse event rate was 18.3%, which did not differ significantly from the prespecified literature-derived comparator of 36% for implantation and treatment with deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson disease. The treatment and sham groups did not differ significantly in terms of mild or serious adverse events during the blinded evaluation period. Intracranial hemorrhage occurred in 9 (4.7%) of 191 subjects; implant or incision site infection occurred in 10 (5.2%) of 191 subjects, and the devices were explanted from 4 of these subjects.

In a follow-up to the RNS System Pivotal Trial, Heck et al. (2014) compared outcomes at 1 and 2 years postimplant with baseline for patients in both groups (sham and control) who had the RNS stimulation device implanted during the RNS System Pivotal Trial. (2) Of the 191 subjects implanted, 182 subjects completed follow-up to 1 year postimplant and 175 subjects completed follow-up to 2 years postimplant. Six patients withdrew from the trial, 4 underwent device explantation due to infection, and 5 died, with 1 death due to sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. During the open-label period, at 2 years of follow-up, median percent reduction in seizures was 53% compared with the preimplant baseline (p<0.001), and the responder rate was 55%.

Follow-Up Analyses to the Pivotal Trial Subjects

Loring et al. (2015) analyzed of one of the trial’s prespecified safety end points (neuropsychologic function) during the trial’s open-label period. (17) Neuropsychological testing focused on language and verbal memory, measured by the Boston Naming Test (BNT) and the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT). One hundred seventy-five subjects had cognitive assessment scores at baseline and at 1 or 2 years or both and were included in this analysis. The authors used reliable change indices (RCIs) to identify patients with changes in test scores beyond that attributed to practice effects or measurement error in the test-retest setting, with 90% RCIs used for classification. Overall, no significant group-level declines in any neuropsychological outcomes were detected. On the BNT, 23.5% of subjects demonstrated RCI improvements while 6.7% had declines; on the Rey AVLT, 6.9% of subjects demonstrated RCI improvements and 1.4% demonstrated declines.

Meador et al. (2015) reported on QOL and mood outcomes for individuals in the RNS pivotal trial. (18) At the end of the blinded study period, both groups reported improvements in Quality of Life in Epilepsy Inventory-89 (QOLIE-89) scores, with no statistically significant differences between groups. In analysis of those with follow-up to 2 years postenrollment, implanted patients had statistically significant improvements in QOLIE-89 scores from enrollment to 1- and 2-year follow-up. Mood, as assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory and the Profile of Mood States, did not worsen over time.

Systematic Reviews

In 2014, Cox et al. reported a systematic review of implantable neurostimulation devices, including RNS, along with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and DBS for refractory epilepsy. (19) The evidence on RNS in this review was primarily from the pivotal RCT (16) described previously. Reviewers concluded that RNS is “promising,” but that improvements in the accuracy of the seizure prediction method and standardization of electrical stimulation parameters were needed.

Gooneratne et al. (2016) performed a systematic review comparing neurostimulation technologies in refractory focal epilepsy. (20) They performed a literature search for studies with long-term efficacy data (≥5 years) and at least 30 patients evaluating VNS, cortical responsive stimulation, or DBS in refractory focal or focal epilepsy through November 2015. No direct comparisons of the technologies were found. The previously described pivotal trial of RNS was the only RNS study included. Indirect comparisons of the technologies were limited by differences in RCT inclusion criteria, definition of response and methods of data collection between studies. Reviewers concluded that all 3 neurostimulation technologies showed long-term efficacy, with progressively better seizure control over time.

Noncomparative Studies

Before and during the pivotal RCT to evaluate the RNS system, short- and long-term outcomes following the use of the device have been described in case series.

The Long-Term Treatment (LTT) Study is a 7-year, multicenter, prospective, open-label study to evaluate the RNS system’s long-term efficacy and safety in individuals who participated in device’s feasibility or pivotal trials. Bergey et al. (2015) reported follow-up for 191 participants in the LTT Study (of a total of 230 originally enrolled in the LTT Study) for a median 5.4 years. (21) Of those who discontinued, 3 were lost to follow-up, 28 patients withdrew (9 to pursue other treatments, 5 due to insufficient efficacy, 5 decided not to replace the RNS system after expected battery depletion, 5 after infection resolved, 3 for noncompliance, 1 for elective explant, 1 due to ongoing suicidality/noncompliance), 4 underwent emergent explant, and 4 died. For follow-up at years 3 and 6, the median percent reductions in seizures were 60% and 66%, respectively. Statistically significant QOL improved at 4 years, with a trend toward improvement at 5 years. The most common adverse events were implant site infection (n=24 [9.4%]) and increase in complex partial seizures (n=20 [7.8%]).

Since device approval, a single-center study by Lee et al. (2015) has reported outcomes after RNS implantation (40 surgeries) in 10 patients. (22) In this series, 1 patient had an implant site infection requiring device explantation and another had multiple lead breakages.

Earlier studies have reported that the RNS implant was well-tolerated in small numbers of patients. Anderson et al. (2008) reported procedural details and clinical outcomes for 4 patients treated with the RNS device (as part of the device’s pivotal clinical trial) and noted that the device implant was well tolerated and qualitatively reduced the frequency of seizures. (10)

Kossoff et al. (2004) reported qualitative reduction in seizure frequency in 4 patients with intractable seizures who received neurostimulation with an external RNS (a precursor to the FDA-approved implantable RNS device) during intracranial monitoring to localize seizure onset for surgery mapping. (9)

Cases in which chronic (i.e., not responsive to detected seizure activity) focal cortical stimulation was used to treat medically refractive epilepsy have also been described. (23) In these cases, cortical electrodes were placed during planned neurosurgical intervention for seizure mapping and were connected to a pulse generator.

Section Summary: RNS for Treatment of Refractory Partial Epilepsy

The most direct and rigorous evidence related to the effectiveness of RNS in the treatment of refractory focal seizures is from the RNS System Pivotal Trial, in which patients who had focal epilepsy refractory to at least 2 medications and received RNS treatment demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in their rates of seizures compared with sham control patients. Although this single RCT was relatively small (97 patients in the treatment group), it was adequately powered for its primary outcome and all patients were treated with the device during the open-label period (97 in the original treatment group, 94 in the original sham group) and demonstrated a significant improvement in seizure rates compared with baseline. However, there were no differences in the percentage of patients who responded to RNS, and no difference on most of the other secondary outcomes. Follow-up has been reported to 5 years postimplantation, without major increases in rates of adverse events.

Adverse Events with the RNS System

As a surgical procedure, implantation of the RNS system is associated with the risks that should be balanced against the risks of alternative treatments, including AEDs and other invasive treatments (vagal nerve stimulator and epilepsy surgery), and the risks of uncontrolled epilepsy. During the RNS System Pivotal Trial, rates of serious adverse events were relatively low: 3.7% of patients had implant site infections, 6% had lead revisions or damage, and 2.1% percent had intracranial hemorrhages during initial implantation. (2)

The FDA’s summary of safety and effectiveness data (SSED) for the RNS system summarized deaths and adverse events. As reported in the SSED, as of October 24, 2012, there were 11 deaths in the RNS System trials, including the pivotal trial and the ongoing long-term treatment study. Two of the deaths were suicides (1 each in the pivotal and LTT studies), 1 due to lymphoma and another to complications of status epilepticus, and 7 were attributed to possible, probable, or definite sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). With 1195 patient implant years, the estimated SUDEP rate is 5.9 per 1000 implant years, which is comparable with the expected rate for patients with refectory epilepsy. (15)

Additional safety outcomes have been reported to 5 years postimplantation through the device’s LTT study (see above).

As of February 23, 2018, there were 92 reports in the FDA Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience (MAUDE) database for product code PFN. Five were labeled as event type “Malfunction,” one was extended hospitalization due to aphasia, and all remaining reports were labeled as “Injury.” Seven of the “Injury” event narratives mentioned hemorrhages, 3 strokes, 6 fluid leakages, 46 infections, 5 swelling or edema, and in 5 the device had become exposed.

Summary of Evidence

For individuals who have refractory focal epilepsy who receive responsive neurostimulation (RNS), the evidence includes an industry-sponsored randomized controlled trial (RCT), which was used for Food and Drug Administration approval of the NeuroPace RNS System, as well as case series. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, morbid events, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. The pivotal trial was well-designed and well-conducted; it reported that RNS is associated with improvements in mean seizure frequency in patients with refractory focal epilepsy, with an absolute difference in change in seizure frequency of about 20% between groups, though the percentage of treatment responders with at least a 50% reduction in seizures did not differ from sham control. Overall, the results suggested a modest reduction in seizure frequency in a subset of patients. The number of adverse events reported in the available studies is low, although the data on adverse events were limited because small study samples. Generally, patients who are candidates for RNS are severely debilitated and have few other treatment options, so the benefits are likely high relative to the risks. In particular, patients who are not candidates for resective epilepsy surgery and have few treatment options may benefit from RNS. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in a meaningful improvement in the net health outcome.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

In 2013, guidelines on vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) on the treatment of epilepsy were issued by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). (24) The guidelines made the following recommendations: “VNS may be considered for seizures in children, for LSG [Lennox-Gastaut syndrome]-associated seizures, and for improving mood in adults with epilepsy (Level C). VNS may be considered to have improved efficacy over time (Level C). Children should be carefully monitored for site infection after VNS implantation.” The AAN indicated that more information would be needed on the treatment of primary generalized epilepsy in adults (only 1 class II article addressed this population). The RNS system was not mentioned in these guidelines.

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials

Some currently unpublished trials that might influence this review are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of Key Trials


Trial Name

Planned Enrollment

Completion Date



RNS® System Long-term Treatment (LTT) Clinical Investigation


May 2018


RNS® System Post-Approval Study in Epilepsy


May 2023

NCT: national clinical trial.

a Denotes industry-sponsored or cosponsored trial.


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The following codes may be applicable to this Medical policy and may not be all inclusive.

CPT Codes

61850, 61860, 61863, 61864, 61880, 61885, 61886, 61888, 95970, 95971


C1767, L8680, L8686, L8688

ICD-9 Diagnosis Codes

Refer to the ICD-9-CM manual

ICD-9 Procedure Codes

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ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes

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ICD-10 Procedure Codes

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not have a national Medicare coverage position. Coverage may be subject to local carrier discretion.

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21. Bergey GK, Morrell MJ, Mizrahi EM, et al. Long-term treatment with responsive brain stimulation in adults with refractory partial seizures. Neurology. Feb 24 2015; 84(8):810-817. PMID 25616485

22. Lee B, Zubair MN, Marquez YD, et al. A single-center experience with the neuropace rns system: a review of techniques and potential problems. World Neurosurg. Sep 2015; 84(3):719-726. PMID 25940211

23. Child ND, Stead M, Wirrell EC, et al. Chronic subthreshold subdural cortical stimulation for the treatment of focal epilepsy originating from eloquent cortex. Epilepsia. Mar 2014; 55(3):e18-21. PMID 24571166

24. Morris GL, 3rd, Gloss D, Buchhalter J, et al. Evidence-based guideline update: vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of epilepsy: report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. Oct 15 2013; 81(16):1453-1459. PMID 23986299

25. Responsive Neurostimulation for the Treatment of Refractory Partial Epilepsy. Chicago, Illinois: Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Medical Policy Reference Manual (2018 April) Surgery 7.01.143.

Policy History:

Date Reason
8/15/2018 Document updated with literature review. The following change(s) were made to Coverage: Term “partial epilepsy” changed to “focal epilepsy”. No references added. Title changed from: Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) for the Treatment of Refractory Partial Epilepsy.
8/15/2017 Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged.
9/1/2016 Reviewed. No changes.
8/1/2015 New medical document. 1) Responsive neurostimulation may be considered medically necessary for patients with partial epilepsy who meet all of the following criteria: 18 years or older, have a diagnosis of partial-onset seizures with 1 or 2 well-localized seizure foci identified, have an average of 3 or more disabling seizures (e.g., motor partial seizures, complex partial seizures, or secondary generalized seizures) per month over the prior 3 months, are refractory to medical therapy (have failed 2 or more appropriate antiepileptic medications at therapeutic doses), are not candidates for focal resective epilepsy surgery (e.g., have an epileptic focus near eloquent cerebral cortex; have bilateral temporal epilepsy), and do not have any of the following contraindications for RNS placement: three or more specific seizure foci, presence of primary generalized epilepsy, or presence of a rapidly progressive neurologic disorder. 2) RNS is considered experimental investigational and/or unproven for all other indications.

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