Allograft Transplants of the Extremities

Number: 0364

  1. Aetna considers allograft transplant of the knee (knee ligaments, osteochondral, and meniscus) medically necessary when selection criteria are met.

    Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament, (MCL), and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL):

    1. Members with ligament deficiency who are not candidates for autogenous transplantation (e.g., individuals whose autogenous tissues have been compromised by previous surgery, previous injury), or 
    2. Members with pathology such as chronic patellar tendonitis, and hamstring injury, or
    3. Members with any other contra-indications to using their own tissue such as collagen disease or generalized ligamentous laxity.


    1. Avascular necrosis lesions of the femoral condyle; or
    2. Non-repairable stage 3 or 4 osteochondritis dissecans; or
    3. Otherwise healthy, active, non-elderly members who have either failed earlier arthroscopic procedures or are not candidates for such procedures because of the size, shape, or location of the lesion; or
    4. Treatment of an isolated, traumatic injury that is full-thickness depth (grade 4, down to and/or including the bone) lesion, preferably surrounded by normal, healthy (non-arthritic) cartilage.  The opposing articular surface should be generally free of disease or injury.


    1. Degenerative changes must be absent or minimal, and
    2. Knee must be stable (i.e., intact or reconstructed ACL), and
    3. Members under the age of 55 years, and 
    4. Pre-operative studies (MRI or previous arthroscopy) reveal absence or near-absence of the meniscus.

    Aetna considers allograft transplant of the knee experimental and investigational for all other indications because its effectiveness for indications other than the ones listed above has not been established.

  2. Aetna considers osteochondral allograft of the talus experimental and investigational because there are unanswered questions regarding the clinical outcomes of this approach when compared with ankle arthrodesis, especially in terms of pain, disability, functionality and durability. 

    Aetna considers the use of vascularized bone graft for the treatment of avascular necrosis of the talus experimental and investigational because its effectiveness has not been established.

  3. Aetna considers osteochondral allograft experimental and investigational for ilio-tibial band repair, shoulder instability, tarso-metatarsal arthrodesis, repairing chondral defects/lesions of the elbow, hip, patella, patello-femoral ligament, and shoulder (e.g., acromio-clavicular (AC) separation, Hill Sachs lesions) because its effectiveness has not been established.

  4. Aetna considers the use of TruFit Plug (a synthetic resorbable biphasic implant) for osteochondral allografts of the knee experimental and investigational because its effectiveness has not been established.

  5. Aetna considers the Fast-Fix meniscal repair system medically necessary for repair of meniscal tears.

  6. Aetna considers the use of DeNovo ET engineered tissue graft (living cartilage allografts using juvenile chondrocytes) and DeNovo NT tissue graft (particulated juvenile cartilaginous allograft) for repair of articular cartilage lesions experimental and investigational because its effectiveness has not been established.


Repair of knee ligaments refers to surgical treatment of acute injuries (ruptures), whereas primary reconstruction usually refers to surgical intervention of ligamentous laxity (chronic insufficiency) several months following an injury.  Revision reconstruction means corrective surgery when the original reconstruction has failed.  The bulk of the literature on ligamentous reconstruction of the knee deals with the primary reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  Generally, there are 3 reconstructive methods for managing ACL insufficiency: (i) intra-articular replacements, (ii) extra-articular procedures, and (iii) combined procedures.  The first method is intended to replace the ACL, whereas the second method is intended to tighten the medial or lateral secondary restraints, or both in the third method.  The sources for intra-articular replacements are quadriceps tendon, patellar tendon, hamstring tendons, and iliotibial band or tract.  In particular, the bone-patellar tendon-bone autograft (the central one-third of the patellar tendon and its bony attachments to the patella and tibial tubercle) is the most common operation currently performed for reconstructing the ACL through arthroscopy.

Allograft, also known as allogeneic graft or homograft, is a graft between individuals of the same species, but of dissimilar genotype.  For tendon allografts, cadaver donors are usually used.  The donor tissues most commonly used are the patellar and Achilles tendons.  An allograft may be preserved by freeze-drying or deep-freezing and can be sterilized either by sterile procurement with careful donor screening or by secondary sterilization with gaseous ethylene oxide or gamma irradiation.  It is believed that freeze-drying or deep-freezing renders connective tissue allografts less immunogenic by killing the cells and denaturing surface histocompatibility antigens.  However, while some investigators have claimed that freeze-drying of the allograft does not significantly change the mechanical properties of the grafts compared with deep-freezing; others have reported frequent late failures of freeze-dried allograft tissues.  Fideler and co-workers (1994) concluded that a dose of 30,000 or 40,000 gray (3 or 4 megarad) of gamma radiation is necessary for the inactivation of the DNA of the human immunodeficiency virus in frozen bone-patellar ligament-bone allograft harvested from donors infected with the virus.

Tendon allograft has been used for the repair/reconstruction of the ACL in patients following major knee injury.  The advantages of using these allografts are a more abundant supply of tissue for multiple ligament and revision surgery, a shorter operative time, faster rehabilitation, avoidance of morbidity associated with autograft harvesting, as well as a lower incidence of stiff knee.  On the other hand, the disadvantages in employing allografts are a potentially increased failure rate, a risk of hepatitis or AIDS infection, as well as stimulation of an immune response.

Studies have shown high failure rates with use of allograft for ACL reconstruction (Gorschewsky et al, 2005; Pritchard et al, 1995; Roberts et al, 1991).  Prodromos et al (2007) performed a meta-analysis of autograft and allograft stability data.  Normal stability for all autografts was 72 % versus 59 % for all allografts (p < 0.01).  Abnormal stability was 5 % for all autografts versus 14 % for all allografts (p < 0.01).  Bone-patellar-tendon-bone (BPTB) autograft normal stability was 66 % versus 57 % for BPTB allografts (p < 0.01).  Abnormal BPTB autograft stability was 6 % versus 16 % for BPTB allograft.  Hamstring autograft normal or abnormal stability rates were 77 % and 4 % and were compared to soft tissue allografts as a group which were 64 % and 12 % (p < 0.01).  The investigators reported that allografts had significantly lower normal stability rates than autografts.  The investigators found that allograft abnormal stability rate, which usually represents graft failure, was nearly 3 times higher than that of autografts.  The investigators concluded that autografts are the graft of choice for routine ACL reconstruction with allografts better reserved for multiple ligament-injured knees where extra tissue may be required.

A meta-analysis of patellar autograft versus allograft for ACL reconstruction found better outcomes with autograft (Krych et al, 2008).  The investigators noted, however, that when irradiated and chemically processed allografts are excluded, the outcomes of autograft and allograft are more similar, but without the irradiation or chemical processing of allografts, there is an increased risk of transmission of infection.

A guidelines panel from the Italian National Guidelines System (Romanini et al, 2010) conducted a critical review of the literature of grafts for arthroscopic ACL reconstruction, and found that "[a]utograft shows moderate superiority compared with allograft" and that "[a]vailable evidence allows recommendation of use of autograft over allograft in arthroscopic ACL reconstruction."  The guidelines panel also found that, for autograft, patellar tendon has better performance than hamstring.  The guidelines panel also concluded that "[i]t is also appropriate to consider allograft and artificial ligaments only in very selected cases, discouraging widespread use, given the potential risks and paucity of well-performed, well-designed clinical studies."

Reinhard et al (2010) conducted a systematic review of the evidence for graft selection in ACL reconstruction.  The investigators found limited high-quality evidence comparing autograft to allograft.  Most case series include a smaller number of young patients (i.e., less than 30 years of age) and there have been early reports of unacceptably high failure rates in young patients.  The authors stated that procurement, storage, sterilization, and processing of allografts vary widely within the industry.  The investigators noted that the sterilization process may affect the mechanical characteristics of allografts, and that this process is necessary to decrease viral disease transmission and bacterial infection rate, but it may also adversely affect the quality of the tissue.  The review stated that several techniques have been used for this purpose.  The review found that, although ethylene oxide sterilization does not alter directly the mechanical properties of the graft, it has been shown to cause clinical failure because of persistent synovitis, and therefore is less favorable.  Another sterilization technique involves applying irradiation.  The authors stated that high-dose irradiation (3 Mrad or more) is unacceptable as it severely affects mechanical properties of the tissue.  The authors stated that lower doses of irradiation (2 to 2.5 Mrad) has also been shown in several studies to cause unacceptable inferior clinical outcomes and high failure rates..

Other more recent studies have found lower failure rates with patellar tendon autograft than allograft and/or hamstring autograft (Barrett et al, 2011; Barrett et al, 2010; Mehta et al, 2010).

Dopirak and colleagues (2008) noted that there has been substantial progress in the understanding of the medial patello-femoral ligament during the past 10 years.  This structure is the primary static soft-tissue restraint to lateral patellar displacement.  Substantial alteration of normal patellar tracking occurs after sectioning of the ligament.  Clinical studies have demonstrated the medial patello-femoral ligament is disrupted during acute patellar dislocation.  Recently, several medial patello-femoral ligament-based procedures have been developed for the treatment of patellar instability with good early results.  However, the authors stated that further studies are needed to define the exact role of these procedures in the treatment of patello-femoral instability.

Oro et al (2011) compared operating room time and costs associated with ACL reconstruction with either bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) autograft or BPTB allograft.  The total mean cost per case was 25 % higher in the allograft group compared with the autograft group.  The mean operating room time was only 12 mins greater in autograft cases.  Other studies have found significantly higher costs with use of allograft than autograft in ACL reconstruction, with little differences in operating room costs (Cooper and Kaeding, 2010; Naqda et al, 2010).

There is inadequate evidence that the use of tendon allograft is equally effective as autograft in the primary reconstruction of ACL.  In addition, due to the risk of disease transmission, it should not be used for primary, isolated ACL reconstruction.  Tendon allograft for reconstruction of the ACL should only be employed when an adequate autologous graft is not available for (i) revision surgery (in knees in which a primary reconstruction of the ligament had failed and in which an autograft had already been used) or for (ii) primary reconstruction surgery for combined ligament injuries (ACL and either the posterior cruciate ligament, or medial collateral ligament) when an adequate autologous graft is not available.

There are relatively few studies comparing allograft to autograft in posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) reconstruction.  In an evidence review of outcomes of posterior collateral ligament treatment, Hammoud et al (2010) cited evidence of good results with Achilles allograft and hamstring autograft for posterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.  Hermans et al published a 6- to 12-year follow-up (mean 9.1 years) study of single bundle PCL reconstruction.  Twenty-two patients (88 % follow-up) with isolated PCL injuries underwent reconstruction using patellar tendon autograft (n = 9), 4-strand hamstring tendon autograft (n = 7), 2-strand hamstring tendon autograft plus Achilles tendon allograft (n = 8), or Achilles tendon allograft alone (n = 1).  The authors reported that there were no differences between grafts used in mean Lysholm score, Tegner score, or International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) rating between the patellar tendon and hamstring tendon reconstructions. 

Williams and Gamradt (2008) noted that the creation of cartilage repair tissue relies on the implantation or neosynthesis of cartilage matrix elements.  One cartilage repair strategy involves the implantation of bioabsorbable matrices that immediately fill a chondral or osteochondral defect.  Such matrices support the local migration of chondrogenic or osteogenic cells that ultimately synthesize new ground substance.  One such matrix scaffold, TruFit Plug, a synthetic resorbable biphasic implant, is a promising device for the treatment of osteochondral voids.  The implant is intended to serve as a scaffold for native marrow elements and matrix ingrowth in chondral defect repair.  The device is a resorbable tissue regeneration scaffold made predominantly from polylactide-coglycolide copolymer, calcium sulfate, and polyglycolide.  It is approved in Europe for the treatment of acute focal articular cartilage or osteochondral defects but is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only for backfill of osteochondral autograft sites.  Pre-clinical studies demonstrated restoration of hyaline-like cartilage in a goat model with subchondral bony incorporation at 12 months.  Early clinical results of patients enrolled in the Hospital for Special Surgery Cartilage Registry have been favorable, with a good safety profile.

Carmont et al (2009) stated that TruFit plugs are synthetic polymer scaffolds that are inserted into an articular surface to provide a stable scaffold to encourage the regeneration of a full thickness of articular cartilage to repair chondral defects.  These researchers reported promising early results for the repair of small articular cartilage defects within the knee.  Others have reported "failures" in which patients have complained of persistent symptoms and joint effusion at 6 months after plug insertion and arthroplasty has been undertaken.  These investigators reported a case of delayed incorporation of an articular cartilage defect of the lateral femoral condyle treated with 3 TruFit plugs.  The patient eventually reported symptom alleviation and resumption of functional activity after 24 months of continued rehabilitation.  The authors recommended that patients with continued symptoms persevere with rehabilitation and allow the regenerating articular cartilage time to mature fully before considering undertaking irreversible arthroplasty procedures.

The clinical value of TruFit Plug for osteochondral allografts of the knee has not been established.

Severe post-traumatic ankle arthritis poses a reconstructive challenge in the young and active patient.  Bipolar fresh osteochondral allograft (BFOA) may represent an intriguing alternative to arthrodesis and prosthetic replacement.  Giannini et al (2010) described a lateral trans-malleolar technique for BFOA, and evaluated the results in a case series.  A total of 32 patients, mean age of 36.8 +/- 8.4 years, affected by ankle arthritis underwent BFOA with a mean follow-up of 31.2 months.  The graft was prepared by specifically designed jigs, including the talus and the tibia with the medial malleolus.  The host surfaces were prepared by the same jigs through a lateral approach.  The graft was placed and fixed with twist-off screws.  Patients were evaluated clinically and radiographically at 2, 4, and 6 months after operation, and at a minimum 24 months follow-up.  A biopsy of the grafted areas was obtained from 7 patients at 1-year follow-up for histological as well as immunohistochemical examination.  Pre-operative AOFAS score was 33.1 +/- 10.9 and post-operatively 69.5 +/- 19.4 (p < 0.0005).  Six failures occurred.  Cartilage harvests showed hyaline-like histology with a normal collagen component but low proteoglycan presence and a disorganized structure.  Samples were positive for MMP-1, MMP-13 and Capsase-3.  The authors concluded that the use of BFOA represents an intriguing alternative to arthrodesis or arthroplasty; precise allograft sizing, stable fitting and fixation and delayed weight-bearing were key factors for a successful outcome.  They stated that further research regarding the immunological behavior of transplanted cartilage is needed.

Injury of articular cartilage due to trauma or pathological conditions is a major cause of disability worldwide.  There is extensive ongoing reseach focusing on strategies to repair and replace knee joint cartilage.  DeNovo NT Graft has been used to treat focal articular defects in a wide range of anatomical applications (e.g., ankle, elbow, great toe, hip, knee, and shoulder). DeNovo NT Natural Tissue Graft, a human tissue allograft, is an available cartilage repair treatment in the United States.  DeNovo ET Engineered Tissue Graft is undergoing a clinical study as an investigational biological product currently underoing clinical tials.  In contrast to DeNovo ET (engineered tissue), DeNovo NT (natural tissue) is obtained directly from a juvenile allograft donor joint and the cartilage is then aseptically minced and packaged by the tissue processor. The particulated allograft is mixed intra-operatively with fibrin glue before being implanted in the recipient’s prepared articular lesion.  Moreover, there is a lack of evidence regarding the clinical value of DeNovo tissue graft.

Ahmed and Hincke (2010) discussed strategies to repair and replace knee joint cartilage.  Because of inadequacies associated with widely used approaches, the orthopedic community has an increasing tendency to develop biological strategies, which include transplantation of autologous (i.e., mosaicplasty) or allogeneic osteochondral grafts, autologous chondrocytes (autologous chondrocyte transplantation), or tissue-engineered cartilage substitutes.  Tissue-engineered cartilage constructs represent a highly promising treatment option for knee injury as they mimic the biomechanical environment of the native cartilage and have superior integration capabilities.  Currently, a wide range of tissue-engineering-based strategies are established and investigated clinically as an alternative to the routinely used techniques (i.e., knee replacement and autologous chondrocyte transplantation).  Tissue-engineering-based strategies include implantation of autologous chondrocytes in combination with collagen I, collagen I/III (matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation), HYAFF 11 (Hyalograft C), and fibrin glue (Tissucol) or implantation of minced cartilage in combination with copolymers of polyglycolic acid along with polycaprolactone (cartilage autograft implantation system), and fibrin glue (DeNovo NT natural tissue graft).  Tissue-engineered cartilage replacements show better clinical outcomes in the short-term, and with advances that have been made in orthopedics they can be introduced arthroscopically in a minimally invasive fashion.  Thus, the future is bright for this innovative approach to restore function.

Kruse et al (2012) presented the findings of a new technique using DeNovo NT juvenile allograft cartilage implantation introduced into a talar lesion arthroscopically in a single procedure to repair a posterio-medial talar osteochondral defects in a healthy, active 30-year old female.  The patient tolerated the procedure well.  At the 6-month follow-up visit, the patient had returned to full activity, and at 24 months, she remained completely pain-free.  The findings of this case study need to be validated by well-designed studies.

Haene et al (2012) evaluated the intermediate outcomes of fresh osteochondral allografting for osteochondral lesions of the talus with use of validated outcome measures.  A total of 16 patients (17 ankles) received a fresh osteochondral allograft, and all 16 were available for follow-up.  Data were prospectively collected with use of the Ankle Osteoarthritis Scale (AOS), Short Form-36 (SF-36), and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Foot and Ankle Module outcome measures.  Post-operative American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) hind-foot scale scores were also collected.  All 16 patients underwent radiographic and computed tomographic (CT) analyses pre-operatively, and 15 patients had these studies post-operatively.  The average duration of follow-up was 4.1 years.  The latest follow-up CT evaluation identified failure of graft incorporation in 2 of 16 ankles.  Osteolysis, subchondral cysts, and degenerative changes were found in 5, 8, and 7 ankles, respectively.  Five ankles were considered failures, and 2 required a re-operation because of ongoing symptoms.  The AOS Disability and the AAOS Foot and Ankle Core Scale scores significantly improved, but there was no significant change in the AOS Pain, AAOS Foot and Ankle Shoe Comfort Scale, or SF-36 scores.  Overall, 10 patients had a good or excellent result; however, persistent symptoms remained in 6 of these patients; only 4 were symptom-free.  The authors concluded that the use of a fresh osteochondral allograft is a reasonable option for the treatment of large talar osteochondral lesions.  Moreover, they stated that the high re-operation rate (2 of 17) and failure rate (5 of 17) must be taken into consideration when one is choosing this procedure for the management of these lesions.  The findings of this small case-series study need to be validated by well-designed studies with more patients and longer follow-up.

Gross et al (2012) performed a systematic review of clinical outcomes after cartilage restorative and reparative procedures in the glenohumeral joint to (i) identify prognostic factors that predict clinical outcomes, (ii) provide treatment recommendations based on the best available evidence, and (iii) highlight literature gaps that require future research.  These investigators searched Medline (1948 to week 1 of February 2012) and Embase (1980 to week 5 of 2012) for studies evaluating the results of arthroscopic debridement, microfracture, osteochondral autograft or allograft transplants, and autologous chondrocyte implantation for glenohumeral chondral lesions.  Other inclusion criteria included minimum 8 months' follow-up.  The Oxford Level of Evidence Guidelines and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) recommendations were used to rate the quality of evidence and to make treatment recommendations.  A total of 12 articles met inclusion criteria, which resulted in a total of 315 patients.  Six articles pertained to arthroscopic debridement (n = 249), 3 to microfracture (n = 47), 2 to osteochondral autograft transplantation (n = 15), and 1 to autologous chondrocyte implantation (n = 5).  Whereas most studies reported favorable results, sample heterogeneity and differences in the use of functional and radiographic outcomes precluded a meta-analysis.  Several positive and negative prognostic factors were identified.  All of the eligible studies were observational, retrospective case series without control groups; the quality of evidence available for the use of the afore-mentioned procedures is considered "very low" and "any estimate of effect is very uncertain".  The authors concluded that more research is needed to determine which treatment for chondral pathology in the shoulder provides the best long-term outcomes.  They encouraged centers to establish the necessary alliances to conduct blinded, randomized clinical trials and prospective, comparative cohort studies necessary to rigorously determine which treatments result in the most optimal outcomes.  At this time, high-quality evidence is lacking to make strong recommendations, and decision- making in this patient population is performed on a case-by-case basis.

Farr et al (2012) noted that Cartilage Autograft Implantation System (CAIS; DePuy/Mitek, Raynham, MA) and DeNovo Natural Tissue (NT; ISTO, St. Louis, MO) are novel treatment options for focal articular cartilage defects in the knee.  These methods involve the implantation of particulated articular cartilage from either autograft or juvenile allograft donor, respectively.  In the laboratory and in animal models, both CAIS and DeNovo NT have demonstrated the ability of the transplanted cartilage cells to "escape" from the extracellular matrix, migrate, multiply, and form a new hyaline-like cartilage tissue matrix that integrates with the surrounding host tissue.  In clinical practice, the technique for both CAIS and DeNovo NT is straightforward, requiring only a single surgery to affect cartilage repair.  Clinical experience is limited, with short-term studies demonstrating both procedures to be safe, feasible, and effective, with improvements in subjective patient scores, and with magnetic resonance imaging evidence of good defect fill.  The authors concluded that while these treatment options appear promising, prospective randomized controlled studies are needed to refine the indications and contraindications for both CAIS and DeNovo NT.

Petrera et al (2013) reported their experience with the use of fresh glenoid osteochondral allograft in the treatment of a chronic post-traumatic posterior subluxation of the shoulder associated with glenoid bone loss in a 54-year old recreational football player.  Based on the pathoanatomy of the lesion and availability of a bone bank providing fresh allograft, these researchers opted for an open anatomic reconstruction using a fresh glenoid allograft.  A posterior approach was used; the prepared allograft was placed in the appropriate anatomic position and fixed with 2 small fragment screws with washers.  At 2-year follow-up, the clinical outcome is excellent.  The authors noted that this procedure may represent an effective option for the treatment of chronic posterior shoulder instability due to glenoid bone loss.  However, they stated that the long-term effectiveness and the progression of glenohumeral osteoarthritis need to be evaluated.

DeNovo ET engineered tissue graft (ISTO Technologies, Inc. St. Louis, MO) is a scaffold-free hyaline cartilage implant designed for the repair and regeneration of knee cartilage.  It uses tissue-engineered juvenile cartilage cells applied to defects of the joint surface using a protein-based adhesive.  There is a lack of evidence regarding the clinical value of the DeNovo ET tissue graft.

Vascellari et al (2012) reviewed the published clinical outcomes of meniscal repair using the Fast-Fix device comparing standard rehabilitation program to an accelerated rehabilitation protocol.  A review of the Medline database was performed involving searches for clinical outcomes of all-inside meniscus repair performed with the Fast-Fix device.  Eight studies were identified for inclusion.  On the basis of the clinical outcomes of these studies, there appears to be no notable difference between an accelerated rehabilitation regimen with full weight bearing allowed as soon as tolerated and a standard post-operative rehabilitation program.  Failure rate was 13 % for patients following an accelerated rehabilitation regimen, and 10 % for standard protocol.  Accelerated rehabilitation after all-inside meniscal repair using the Fast-Fix device appears to be safe, and the incidence of re-tears is in line with those reported for standard rehabilitation protocol.

Giza and Howell (2013) noted that OCD of the talus are frequent sequelae of traumatic ankle injuries such as ankle sprains, fractures, and recurrent ankle instability.  Initial management of talus lesions in most cases involves arthroscopy and microfracture/curettage.  Tissue resulting from the microfracture is fibrocartilage.  Clinical improvement in pain is seen in approximately 75 % to 85 % of people in a number of studies with long-term follow-up.  Often, large lesions (greater than 1 cm(2)) or those with cystic changes require secondary procedures such as talus allograft/autograft or autologous chondrocyte implantation.  The use of a juvenile articular chondrocyte allograft is an option for large or refractory lesions and has the advantage of obviating the need for a tibial or fibular osteotomy.  The purpose of this article was to describe a novel arthroscopic surgical technique for transplantation of juvenile chondrocytes as a treatment for talus OCD defects.

Cerrato et al (2013) noted that osteochondral lesions of the talus can present a challenge to the orthopedic surgeon.  Because of its avascular nature, articular cartilage has a poor capacity for self-repair and regeneration.  A wide variety of strategies have been developed to restore the structure and function of injured cartilage.  Surgical strategies range from repair of cartilage through the formation of fibrocartilage to a variety of restorative procedures, including tissue-engineering-based strategies.  A novel treatment option involves the implantation of particulated articular cartilage obtained from a juvenile allograft donor, the DeNovo NT graft.

Coetzee et al (2013) collected clinical outcomes of pain and function in retrospectively and prospectively enrolled patients treated with particulated juvenile cartilage for symptomatic osteochondral lesions in the ankle.  This study collected outcomes and incidence of re-operations in standard clinic patients.  The analysis presented here includes final follow-up to date for 12 males and 11 females representing 24 ankles.  Subjects had an average age at surgery of 35.0 years and an average body mass index of 28 ± 5.8.  Fourteen ankles had failed at least 1 prior bone marrow stimulation procedure.  The average lesion size was 125 ± 75 mm2, and the average depth was 7 ± 5 mm.  In conjunction with the treatment, 9 (38 %) ankles had 1 concomitant procedure and 9 (38%) had more than 1 concomitant procedure.  Clinical evaluations were performed with an average follow-up of 16.2 months.  Average outcome scores at final follow-up were American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society Ankle-Hindfoot Scale 85 ± 18 with 18 (78 %) ankles demonstrating good to excellent scores, Short-Form 12 Health Survey (SF12) physical composite score 46 ± 10, SF12 mental health composite score 55 ± 7.1, Foot and Ankle Ability Measure (FAAM) activities of daily living 82 ± 14, FAAM Sports 63 ± 27, and 100-mm visual analog scale for pain 24 ± 25.  Outcomes data divided by lesion size demonstrated 92 % (12/13) good to excellent results in lesions 10 mm or larger and those smaller than 15 mm.  To date, 1 partial graft delamination has been reported at 16 months.  The authors concluded that preliminary data from a challenging clinical population with large, symptomatic osteochondral lesions in the ankle suggested that treatment with particulated juvenile cartilage could improve function and decrease pain.  They stated that longer follow-up and additional subjects are needed to evaluate improvement level and ideal patient indications.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s occupational medicine practice guidelines on “Evaluation and management of common health problems and functional recovery in workers” (ACOEM, 2011) and the Work Loss Data Institute’s clinical guidelines on “Ankle & foot (acute & chronic)” (2011) did not mention the use of allograft as a therapeutic tool.

In a review on “Osteochondral lesions of the talus: Aspects of current management”, Hannon et al (2014) states that “Osteochondral lesions (OCLs) occur in up to 70 % of sprains and fractures involving the ankle.  Atraumatic etiologies have also been described.  Techniques such as microfracture, and replacement strategies such as autologous osteochondral transplantation, or autologous chondrocyte implantation are the major forms of surgical treatment”.  This review does not mention the use of allograft as a therapeutic option.  Furthermore, UpToDate reviews on “Clinical features and management of ankle pain in the young athlete” (Chorley and Powers, 2014) “Talus fractures” (Koehler, 2014a) do not mention the use of allograft as a management tool.

UpToDate reviews on “Acromioclavicular joint injuries” (Koehler, 2013a), “Acromioclavicular joint disorders” (Koehler, 2013b), and “Patient information: Acromioclavicular joint injury (shoulder separation) (Beyond the Basics)” (Koehler, 2013c) do NOT mention the use of allograft as a therapeutic option.

Jordan et al (2012) stated that young patients with cartilage defects in the hip present a complex problem for the treating physician with limited treatment modalities available.  Cartilage repair/replacement techniques have shown promising results in other joints, however, the literature regarding the hip joint is limited.  These researchers conducted a systematic review of clinical outcomes following various treatments for chondral lesions of the hip and defined the techniques for the treatment of these cartilage defects.  The full manuscripts of 15 studies were reviewed for this systematic review including case studies, case series, and clinical studies.  A variety of techniques have been reported for the treatment of symptomatic chondral lesions in the hip.  Microfracture, cartilage repair, autologous chondrocyte implantation, mosaicplasty, and osteochondral allografting have all been used in very limited case series.  Although good results have been reported, most studies lack both a control group and a large number of patients.  However, the authors concluded that the reported results in this article provided a good foundation for treatments and stimulant for further study in an inherently difficult to treat young patient population with articular cartilage defects in the hip.

El Bitar et al (2014) noted that management of injuries to the articular cartilage is complex and challenging; it becomes especially problematic in weight-bearing joints such as the hip.  Several causes of articular cartilage damage have been described, including trauma, labral tears, and femoro-acetabular impingement, among others.  Because articular cartilage has little capacity for healing, non-surgical management options are limited.  Surgical options include total hip arthroplasty, microfracture, articular cartilage repair, autologous chondrocyte implantation, mosaicplasty, and osteochondral allograft transplantation.  Advances in hip arthroscopy have broadened the spectrum of tools available for diagnosis and management of chondral damage.  However, the authors concluded that the literature is still not sufficiently robust to draw firm conclusions regarding best practices for chondral defects.  They stated that additional research is needed to expand the knowledge of and develop guidelines for management of chondral injuries of the hip.

Farr et al (2014) evaluated the use of particulated juvenile articular cartilage (DeNovo NT) to treat patients with symptomatic articular cartilage lesions on the femoral condyle or trochlear groove of the knee.  A total of 25 patients were followed pre- and post-operatively through 2 years.  Physical knee examinations, as well as multiple clinical surveys and MRI were performed at baseline and 3, 6, 12 and 24 month intervals.  In some cases, patients voluntarily underwent diagnostic arthroscopic surgery with cartilage biopsy at 2 years post-op to assess the histological appearance of the cartilage repair.  Clinical outcomes demonstrated statistically significant increases at 2 years compared with baseline, with improvement seen as early as 3 months.  MRI results suggested the development of normal cartilage by 2 years.  Histologically, biopsied repair tissue was noted to be composed of a mixture of hyaline and fibrocartilage and there appeared to be excellent integration of the transplanted tissue with the surrounding native articular cartilage.  The authors concluded that particulated juvenile articular cartilage (DeNovo NT) provides for a rapid, safe and effective treatment of cartilage defects with clinical outcomes showing significant improvement over baseline and histologically favorable repair tissue at 2 years.  There are several limitations from a small study without an appropriate surgical control.  For example, the sample size is inadequately powered for anything other than an analysis of safety, only 3 surgeons participated, and the use of a single but experienced radiologist and pathologist prevents intra-rater reliability measurements.  Further studies on this novel approach are needed, owing to the small number of lesions and relatively short follow-up time in this study.

Bisicchia et al (2014) stated that osteochondral lesions of the talus are being recognized as an increasingly common injury.  They are most commonly located postero-medially or antero-laterally, while centrally located lesions are uncommon.  Large osteochondral lesions have significant biomechanical consequences and often require resurfacing with osteochondral autograft transfer, mosaicplasty, autologous chondrocyte implantation (or similar methods) or osteochondral allograft transplantation.  Allograft procedures have become popular due to inherent advantages over other resurfacing techniques.  Cartilage viability is one of the most important factors for successful clinical outcomes after transplantation of osteochondral allografts and is related to storage length and intra-operative factors.  The authors noted that while there is abundant literature about osteochondral allograft transplantation in the knee, there are few papers about this procedure in the talus. 

Gelber et al (2014) noted that treatment of osteochondral lesions of the knee with synthetic scaffolds seems to offer a good surgical option preventing donor site morbidity.  The TruFit® plug has frequently been shown to not properly incorporate into.  These researchers evaluated the relationship between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings and functional scores of patients with osteochondral lesions of the knee treated with TruFit®.  Patients were evaluated with MOCART score for MRI assessment of the repair tissue.  KOOS, SF-36 and VAS were used for clinical evaluation.  Correlation between size of the treated chondral defect and functional scores was also analyzed.  A total of 57 patients with median follow-up of 44.8 months (range of 24 to 73) were included.  KOOS, SF-36 and VAS improved from a mean 58.5, 53.9 and 8.5 points to a mean 87.4, 86.6 and 1.2 at last follow-up (p < 0.001).  Larger lesions showed less improvement in KOOS (p = 0.04) and SF-36 (p = 0.029).  Median Tegner values were restored to pre-injury situation (5, range of 2 to 10).  Mean MOCART score was 43.2 ± 16.1.  Although the cartilage layer had good integration, it showed high heterogeneity and no filling of the subchondral bone layer.  The authors concluded that the TruFit® failed to restore the normal MRI aspect of the subchondral bone and lamina in most cases.  The appearance of the chondral layer in MRI was partially re-established.  This unfavorable MRI appearance did not adversely influence the patient's outcome in the short time and they restored their previous level of activity.  There was an inverse linear relationship between the size of the lesion and the functional scores.

Song and colleagues (2014) stated that there have been no studies evaluating the clinical results after repair of a radial tear in the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus (PHLM) using the FasT-Fix system.  In a case-series study, these researchers evaluated the clinical outcomes after repair of a radial tear in the PHLM using the FasT-Fix system in conjunction with ACL reconstruction.  Between September 2008 and August 2011, a total of 15 radial tears in the PHLM identified during 132 consecutive ACL reconstructions were repaired using the FasT-Fix meniscal repair system.  These investigators classified the radial tears into 3 types according to the tear patterns: (i) simple radial tear, (ii) complex radial tear, and (iii) radial tear involving the popliteal hiatus.  Post-operative evaluation was performed using the Lysholm knee score and Tegner activity level.  Second-look arthroscopy was performed in all cases.  The mean follow-up period was 24 months.  None of the patients had a history of recurrent effusion, joint line tenderness or a positive McMurray test.  The meniscal repair was considered to have a 100 % clinical success rate.  At the final follow-up, the Lysholm knee score and Tegner activity level were significantly improved compared to the pre-operative values.  On the second-look arthroscopy, repair of radial tears in the PHLM in conjunction with ACL reconstruction using the FasT-Fix device resulted in complete or partial healing in 86.6 % of cases.  The authors concluded that clinical results after meniscal repair of a radial tear in the PHLM by using the FasT-Fix system were satisfactory.  The study only provided Level IV evidence; its main drawbacks were its small sample size (n = 15) and its short-term follow-up (mean of 24 months).

CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-10 Codes
Information in the [brackets] below has been added for clarification purposes.   Codes requiring a 7th character are represented by "+":
ICD-10 codes will become effective as of October 1, 2015 :
Allograft transplant of the knee ligaments:
CPT codes covered if selection criteria are met:
27427 Ligamentous reconstruction (augementation), knee; extra-articular
27428     intra-articular (open)
27429     intra-articular (open) and extra-articular
29888 Arthroscopically aided anterior cruciate ligament repair/augmentation or reconstruction
29889 Arthroscopically aided posterior cruciate ligament repair/augmentation or reconstruction
ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
M22.2X1 - M22.3X9 Patellofemoral disorders and other derangements of patella [including lateral, medial, anterior and posterior ligaments]
M22.8X1 - M22.8X9 Other disorders of patella [including lateral, medial, anterior and posterior ligaments]
M23.50 - M23.52 Chronic instability of knee [including lateral, medial, anterior and posterior ligaments]
M23.601 - M23.8X9 Other spontaneous disruption of ligament(s) of knee and other internal derangements of knee [including lateral, medial, anterior and posterior ligaments]
M76.50 - M76.52 Patellar tendinitis
Allograft transplant of the knee, osteochondral:
CPT codes covered if selection criteria are met:
27415 Osteochondral allograft, knee, open
29867 Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; osteochondral allograft(s) (e.g., mosaicplasty)
ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
M17.0 - M17.9 Osteoarthritis of knee
M87.051 - M87.059 Idiopathic aseptic necrosis of femur
M87.151 - M87.159 Osteonecrosis due to drugs, femur
M87.251 - M87.256 Osteonecrosis due to previous trauma, femur
M87.351 - M87.353 Other secondary osteonecrosis, femur
M87.851 - M87.859 Other osteonecrosis, right femur
M93.20 - M93.29 Osteochondritis dissecans
Allograft transplant of the knee, meniscus:
CPT codes covered if selection criteria are met:
29868 Arthroscopy, knee, surgical; meniscal transplantation (includes arthrotomy for meniscal insertion), medial or lateral
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
27427 - 27429 Ligamentous reconstruction (augmentation), knee
29870 - 29889 Arthroscopy, knee
73721 - 73723 Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging
ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
M23.200 - M23.369 Derangement of medial and lateral meniscus
Q68.6 Discoid meniscus
S83.200+ Tear of unspecified meniscus, current injury
S83.211+ - S83.249+ Tear of medial meniscus, current injury
S83.251+ - S83.289+ Tear of lateral meniscus, current injury
S83.30X+ - S83.32X+ Tear of articular cartilage of knee, current
Osteochondral allograft of talus:
CPT codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
20962 Bone graft with microvascular anastomosis; other than fibula, iliac crest, or metatarsal
28103 Excision or currettage of bone cyst or benign tumor, talus or calcaneus; with allograft
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
28705 - 28725 Arthrodesis; pantalar; triple; or subtalar
ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
M87.071 - M87.076 Idiopathic aseptic necrosis of ankle and foot [talus]
M87.171 - M87.176 Osteonecrosis due to drugs, ankle and foot [talus] [avascular necrosis of bone]
M87.271 - M87.276 Osteonecrosis due to previous trauma, ankle and foot [talus] [avascular necrosis of bone]
M87.371 - M87.376 Other secondary osteonecrosis, ankle and foot [talus] [avascular necrosis of bone]
M87.871 - M87.876 Other osteonecrosis, ankle and foot [talus] [avascular necrosis of bone]
Osteochondral allograft of tarsal-metatarsal:
CPT codes not covered for indications listed in theCPB:
20957 Bone graft with microvascular anastomosis; metatarsal
28107 Excision or curettage of bone cyst or benign tumor, tarsal or metatarsal, except talus or calcaneus; with allograft
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
28730 - 28735 Tarso-metatarsal arthrodesis
Osteochondral allograft other than knee, talus or tarsal-metatarsal:
Osteochondral allograft of shoulder or hip:
No specific code
ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
M89.9 Disorder of bone, unspecified [chondral lesions of the hip]
M94.9 Disorder of cartilage, unspecified [chondral lesions of the hip]
M95.8 Other specified acquired deformities of musculoskeletal system [chondral defects of the hip]
S43.101+ - S43.109+ Unspecified dislocation of acromioclavicular joint [acromio-clavicular (AC) separation]
DeNovo ET engineered tissue graft and DeNovo NT tissue graft, TruFit Plug (a synthetic resorbable biphasic implant) for osteochondral allografts of the knee:
Fast-Fix meniscal repair system:
No specific code
ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
S83.200+ Tear of unspecified meniscus, current injury
S83.211+ - S83.249+ Tear of medial meniscus, current injury
S83.251+ - S83.289+ Tear of lateral meniscus, current injury
S83.30X+ - S83.32X+ Tear of articular cartilage of knee, current

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