Aetna considers surgery with the Mohs technique medically necessary for any of the following skin conditions:
Aetna considers Mohs micrographic surgery experimental and investigational for all other indications because its effectiveness for indications other than the ones listed above has not been established.
Note: Mohs micrographic surgery requires a single physician to act in 2 integrated, but separate and distinct capacities: surgeon and pathologist. If either of these responsibilities is delegated to another physician who reports his/her services separately, the use of the Mohs micrographic surgery CPT codes is inappropriate.Background
Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) is a method of excising complex or ill-defined skin cancers in such a way as to conserve maximal amounts of normal tissue while allowing for histological examination of the entire surgical margin to ensure complete removal of the skin cancer. The tumor tissue is fixed in place and then removed layer by layer. Each layer is microscopically reviewed by the Mohs surgeon to ensure that the entire tumor is removed. The procedure is generally performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.
Mosterd et al (2008) stated that basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer and its incidence is still rising worldwide. Surgery is the most frequently used treatment for BCC, but large randomized controlled trials with 5-year follow-up to compare treatment modalities are rare. These researchers performed a prospective randomized controlled trial (RCT) to compare the effectiveness of surgical excision with MMS for the treatment of primary and recurrent facial BCC. A total of 408 primary BCCs (pBCCs) and 204 recurrent BCCs (rBCCs) in patients from 7 hospitals in the Netherlands were randomly assigned to surgical excision or MMS. Randomization and allocation were carried out separately for both groups by a computer-generated allocation scheme. Tumors had a follow-up of 5 years. Analyses were done on an intention-to-treat basis. The primary outcome was recurrence of carcinoma, diagnosed clinically by visual inspection with histological confirmation. Secondary outcomes were determinants of failure and cost-effectiveness. Of the 397 pBCCs that were treated, 127 pBCCs in 113 patients were lost to follow-up. Of the 11 recurrences that occurred in patients with pBCC, 7 (4.1 %) occurred in patients treated with surgical excision and 4 (2.5 %) occurred in patients treated with MMS (log-rank test chi(2) 0.718, p = 0.397). Of the 202 rBCCs that were treated, 56 BCCs in 52 patients were lost to follow-up. Two BCCs (2.4 %) in 2 patients treated with MMS recurred, versus 10 BCCs (12.1 %) in 10 patients treated with surgical excision (log-rank test chi(2) 5.958, p = 0.015). The difference in the number of recurrences between treatments was not significant for pBCC, but significantly favored MMS in rBCC. In pBCC, Cox-regression analysis showed no significant effects from risk factors measured in the study. In rBCC, aggressive histological subtype was a significant risk factor for recurrence in the Cox-regression analysis. For pBCC, total treatment costs were Euro1248 for MMS and Euro990 for surgical excision, whereas for rBCC, treatment costs were Euro1284 and Euro1043, respectively. Dividing the difference in costs between MMS and surgical excision by their difference in effectiveness leads to an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of Euro23,454 for pBCC and Euro3171 for rBCC. The authors concluded that Mohs' micrographic surgery is preferred over surgical excision for the treatment of facial rBCC, on the basis of significantly fewer recurrences after MMS than after surgical excision. However, because there was no significant difference in recurrence of pBCC between treatment groups, treatment with surgical excision is probably sufficient in most cases of pBCC.
Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) is an uncommon tumor of the skin with high rates of local recurrence. Clinically, it often masquerades as a benign, indolent tumor on the trunk and extremities. Microscopically, it extends far beyond assessed clinical margins, spreading locally in the dermis, subcutaneous tissue, and muscle. The local recurrence rate in patients with DFSP who undergo wide local excision (WLE) ranges from 0 % to 21 %. Recent preliminary reports indicated more consistently favorable cure rates with MMS. However, to date only a few scattered reports have documented long-term (5-year) follow-up.
Snow et al (2004) conducted a retrospective review of a series of 40 consecutive patients with DFSP who underwent MMS over the last 20 years. Of these, there were 29 patients with greater than 5 years of follow-up who formed the basis of the this review. There were 16 women and 13 men; 8 patients developed recurrent disease after previous non-Mohs treatment. Site distribution was 45 % head and neck and 55 % trunk and extremities. In the current series, there were no local recurrences, with a local 5-year cure rate of 100 %. In the literature review, which included the current series, there were 136 patients with DFSP who underwent Mohs surgery with greater than 5 years of follow-up. Nine patients in the current series developed local recurrences, including 5 patients who underwent a second Mohs procedure. The local cure rates after the 1st and 2nd Mohs surgeries were 93.4 % and 98.5 %, respectively. The rate (%) and time to local recurrence was 50 % at 3 years and 75 % at 5 years. However, 25 % of local recurrences appeared late, after the usual 5-year recommendation. The authors found that in a series of 29 patients with of DFSP and in an accompanying update of the medical literature, 136 patients with DFSP underwent MMS with greater than 5 years of follow-up. There were no regional and/or distant metastases. However, late recurrences beyond the usual recommended 5-year follow-up may occur. Therefore, all patients with DFSP, especially those with recurrent tumors, should be followed for an extended period. The accumulated data continue to confirm that, when DFSP is discovered early and is accessible readily to excision by MMS, a favorable outcome can be expected with minimal trauma or sacrifice of adjacent normal structures and with a low recurrence rate.
DuBay and associates (2004) reviewed the experience with a multi-disciplinary approach employing WLE and MMS selectively in the treatment of patients (n = 62) with DFSP at a single academic institution over the past 10 years. Primary endpoints included the ability to extirpate the DFSP lesion completely, the tumor recurrence rate, and the need for skin grafts or local tissue flaps. A total of 63 DFSP lesions were removed from 62 patients. At a median follow-up of 4.4 years, no local or distant recurrences were detected in any patient. Forty-three lesions were treated with WLE, 11 lesions were treated with MMS, and 9 lesions were treated with a combination approach. Ninety-five percent of lesions that were approached initially with WLE were cleared histologically. Two patients (5 %) received post-operative radiation for positive margins after undergoing maximal excision. Eighty-five percent of lesions that were approached initially with MMS were cleared histologically. The remaining 15 % of lesions subsequently were cleared surgically with a WLE. Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans lesions that were approached initially with MMS tended to be smaller. Patients with head and neck lesions most often underwent MMS or were treated with a multi-disciplinary combination approach (87 %). The authors concluded that WLE, MMS, and a multi-disciplinary combination approach, selected based on both tumor and patient factors, were capable of achieving very high local control rates in the treatment of DFSP.
It has been debated if MMS involves lower recurrence rates than WLE. Recent preliminary reports indicated more consistently favorable cure rates with MMS. Paradisi et al (2008) reported comparative observational data on 41 patients who underwent MMS and 38 who underwent WLE. Their data were then pooled with those available in the medical literature to obtain more precise estimates of recurrence rates with MMS and WLE. The primary endpoint was tumor recurrence rate. The PubMed database was searched for DFSP case series treated with WLE or MMS, and the recurrence proportions reported for the two separate procedures were pooled. Five of the 38 WLE patients (follow-up = 4.8 years) had recurrences (13.2 %, 95 % confidence interval [CI]: 4.4 % to 28.1 %) as opposed to none (95 % CI: 0 % to 8.6%) of the 41 MMS patients (follow-up = 5.4 years). Pooling of these data with those from the literature yielded 6/463 recurrences for MMS (1.3 %, 95 % CI: 0.5 % to 2.8%) and 288/1,394 recurrences for WLE (20.7 %, 95 % CI: 18.6 % to 22.9 %). The relative risk of recurrence for WLE versus MMS patients was 15.9 (95 % CI: 7.2 to 35.5). The authors concluded that significantly lower recurrence rates were recorded in patients subjected to MMS compared with those treated with WLE. The pooled data also indicated a clear advantage of MMS. There is inconclusive evidence for any advantage of MMS in non-primary cases, while MMS was most effective in treating head and neck tumors.
Yu and colleagues (2008) conducted a retrospective analysis of 25 patients with DFSP who received either WLE, modified wide excision (with horizontal processing), Mohs micrographic surgery, or combination surgery. Follow-up ranged from 15 to 133 months, with a median of 68 months. Fourteen patients were treated with WLE, 4 with modified wide excision, 6 with MMS followed by modified wide excision, and 1 with MMS. No recurrences were reported. Patients with lesions arising from "cosmetically sensitive" areas (head and neck) most often underwent MMS or modified wide excision. These findings supported that all 4 surgical treatment methods were successful in achieving recurrence-free survival, but emphasis on pre-surgical planning and patient selection for each surgical approach is key to allow for the least complicated repair while maximizing tissue preservation.
Although ultrasound imaging is employed ubiquitously today, its use to examine and assess the skin is a relatively new technology. High-resolution ultrasound has shown promise in evaluating the extent of no-nmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Jambusaria-Pahlajani et al (2009) determined the accuracy of high-resolution ultrasound to assess the margins of basal cell (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) before MMS. A total of 100 patients with invasive SCC or BCC were enrolled in this study. Before the 1st stage of MMS, a Mohs surgeon delineated the intended surgical margin. Subsequently, a trained ultrasound technologist independently evaluated disease extent using the EPISCAN I-200 to evaluate tumor extent beyond this margin. The accuracy of high-resolution ultrasound was subsequently tested by comparison with pathology from frozen sections. The test characteristics of the high-resolution ultrasound were sensitivity = 32 %, specificity = 88 %, positive predictive value = 47 %, and negative predictive value = 79 %. Subgroup analyses demonstrated better test characteristics for tumors larger than the median (area greater than 1.74 cm(2)). Qualitative analyses showed that high-resolution ultrasound was less likely to identify extension from tumors with subtle areas of extension, such as small foci of dermal invasion from infiltrative SCC and micro-nodular BCC. The authors concluded that high-resolution ultrasound requires additional refinements to improve the pre-operative determination of tumor extent before surgical treatment of NMSC.
Marmur and colleagues (2010) explored the clinical application and use of high-frequency, high-resolution ultrasound in MMS. In a single-center study, these researchers evaluated the ability of ultrasound to accurately determine lesion length and width of tumor borders in order to reduce the number of surgical stages (n = 26 MMS patients). Ultrasound images were taken to record lesion dimensions, and then the investigator documented clinical estimation of the first stage. Extirpation of the tumor and histological analysis were performed thereafter. The results of 20 patients were included in the analysis. A paired-samples t-test revealed no significant difference between clinical and ultrasound widths (t = -1.324, p = 0.20). Similarly, there was no significant difference between the lengths found from clinical assessment and ultrasound (t = -1.093, p = 0.29). For different tumor types, there was no significant difference between clinical and ultrasound widths or lengths for basal cell carcinoma (t = -1.307, p = 0.23; t = -1.389, p = 0.20) or squamous cell cancer (t = -0.342, p = 0.73; t = 0.427, p = 0.68). The authors concluded that there is a diagnostic role for high-resolution ultrasound in MMS regarding the delineation of surgical margins, but its limitations preclude its practical adoption at this time.
In a Cochrane review, Narayanan et al (2012) compared the effectiveness, cost, complications and acceptability of periocular BCCs when operated by MMS or surgical excision (SE). These investigators searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 11), MEDLINE (January 1950 to November 2011), EMBASE (January 1980 to November 2011), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (www.controlled-trials.com), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en). There were no date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. The electronic databases were last searched on November 23, 2011. These researchers planned to include only RCTs comparing SE with MMS for treatment of peri-ocular BCC. They did not find any studies that met the inclusion criteria for this review and hence none was included for analysis. Results of non-RCTs describing the individual techniques were reported. The authors concluded that no reliable conclusions could be reached regarding which method of treatment (SE or MMS) resulted in a lower recurrence or complication rate for peri-ocular BCC. No studies were found comparing the cost of either method directly. They stated that high quality RCTs are therefore needed to improve the evidence base for the management of this condition.
Bae and colleagues (2013) stated that extra-mammary Paget disease (EMPD) is a rare intraepithelial neoplasm of the skin characterized by ill-defined margins and high recurrence rates after wide local excision. Although MMS has been proposed to decrease the rate of local recurrence, the efficacy of MMS for this condition has not yet been established. These investigators evaluated the effectiveness of MMS for the treatment of EMPD. A comprehensive systematic review and individual patient data meta-analysis was performed including all available clinical studies and case reports with 5 or more subjects describing the use of MMS for EMPD. A total of 8 studies were identified and included in the current review: 3 retrospective studies and 5 case series. In all, 81 patients with 90 cases of MMS were included from these 8 studies. The overall recurrence rate for EMPD after MMS was 12.2 % correlating with an estimated 5-year tumor-free rate of 83.6 % by using Kaplan-Meier curve analysis. The treatment of EMPD with MMS resulted in significantly lower recurrence rates than wide local excision in this meta-analysis of 3 observational studies with comparators (odds ratio 0.20; 95 % CI: 0.05 to 0.81). The authors concluded that the current evidence supports the effectiveness of MMS in the treatment of EMPD. Moreover, they stated that further controlled clinical trials are needed. The main drawbacks of this analysis included a lack of controlled trials, small sample sizes in the included studies, as well as publication bias.
Alam et al (2013) stated that floaters are dislodged pieces of tumor tissue than can obscure MMS frozen sections and confound their interpretation. These researchers described the common causes of floaters and identified management strategies. An initial virtual consensus of Mohs surgeons based on a 60-item questionnaire was performed. Data were validated in interviews with randomly selected Mohs surgeons. Based on retrospective reporting of 230 surgeon-years and 170,404 cases of MMS by 26 surgeons, the mean rate of floaters per tumor treated was 1.8 %, and the rate of floaters per tissue block was 0.70 %. Not wiping blades between cuts when a stage is separated into subunits can predispose to floaters. There was also strong consensus that BCCs, ulcerated tumors, and tissue from the 1st stage were more likely to yield floaters. There was little consensus on how to manage floaters, with possibilities including taking additional sections, taking an additional stage, or simply noting the floater. The authors concluded that floaters are not rare and can complicate MMS margin assessment. They stated that there is significant expert consensus regarding the causes of floaters and the tissue features that may predispose to them. Moreover, they noted that floaters may be prevented by minimizing their likely cause; but there is less consensus on what to do with a floater.
Hou et al (2015) stated that WLE with 5-mm margins is the standard of care for the treatment of lentigo maligna (LM). Mohs micrographic surgery is used increasingly to treat this tumor. The authors reported their experience with these 2 approaches. Primary LM cases treated at the authors' institution from January 1, 1995, through December 31, 2005, were studied retrospectively. Main outcome measures were recurrence and outcomes after treatment for recurrence. In total, 423 LM lesions were treated in 407 patients: 269 (64 %) with WLE and 154 (36 %) with MMS. In the MMS group (primarily larger head and neck lesions with indistinct clinical margins), recurrence rates were 3 of 154 (1.9 %). In the WLE group (primarily smaller, non-head and neck, or more distinct lesions), recurrence rates were 16 of 269 (5.9 %). Each of the 16 recurrences was biopsy proven and treated surgically: 6 by SE and 10 by MMS. The authors concluded that this follow-up study of LM surgical treatments showed excellent outcomes for WLE and MMS. They stated that because this was a non-randomized retrospective study, no direct comparisons between the 2 treatments can be made. When recurrences occurred, repeat surgery, either SE or MMS, was usually sufficient to provide definitive cure.
Alcalay et al (2015) noted that vismodegib, a hedgehog pathway inhibitor has been recently introduced as an oral therapy for locally advanced and metastatic BCC. Although treatment of patients with BCC with vismodegib has been associated with partial or complete clinical response, it is still unclear if it is also associated with histological cure. Two patients with 3 large and aggressive BCC were treated with vismodegib for 6 months. The treatment was followed by MMS. Two tumors disappeared clinically and 1 was reduced dramatically in its size following treatment with vismodegib. Mohs surgery in all 3 tumors revealed residual islands of BCC although margins were cleared at the end of surgery. The authors concluded that neoadjuvant therapy with vismodegib for 6 months prior to Mohs surgery was effective in reducing the size of primary and recurrent aggressive BCC. However, residual tumor nests were found during surgery. They stated that further larger studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of vismodegib as a neoadjuvant treatment prior to Mohs surgery.
|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 :|
|CPT codes covered if selection criteria are met:|
|17311||Mohs micrographic technique, including removal of all gross tumor, surgical excision of tissue specimens, mapping, color coding of specimens, microscopic examination of specimens by the surgeon, and histopathologic preparation including routine stain(s) (eg, hematoxylin and eosin, toluidine blue), head, neck, hands, feet, genitalia, or any location with surgery directly involving muscle, cartilage, bone, tendon, major nerves, or vessels; first stage, up to 5 tissue blocks|
|+ 17312||each additional stage after the first stage, up to 5 tissue blocks (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)|
|17313||Mohs micrographic technique, including removal of all gross tumor, surgical excision of tissue specimens, mapping, color coding of specimens, microscopic examination of specimens by the surgeon, and histopathologic preparation including routine stain(s) (eg, hematoxylin and eosin, toluidine blue), of the trunk, arms, or legs; first stage, up to 5 tissue blocks|
|+ 17314||each additional stage after the first stage, up to 5 tissue blocks (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)|
|+ 17315||Mohs micrographic technique, including removal of all gross tumor, surgical excision of tissue specimens, mapping, color coding of specimens, microscopic examination of specimens by the surgeon, and histopathologic preparation including routine stain(s) (eg, hematoxylin and eosin, toluidine blue) each additional block after the first 5 tissue blocks, any stage (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)|
|88331||Pathology consultation during surgery; first tissue block, with frozen section(s), single specimen|
|88332||each additional tissue block with frozen section(s) (list separatley in addition to code for primary procedure)|
|ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:|
|C00.0 - C00.9||Malignant neoplasm of lip|
|C01 - C02.9||Malignant neoplasm of tongue|
|C03.0 - C03.9||Malignant neoplasm of gum|
|C04.0 - C04.9||Malignant neoplasm of floor of mouth|
|C05.0 - C06.9||Malignant neoplasm of other and unspecified parts of mouth|
|C30.0||Malignant neoplasm of nasal cavity|
|C43.0 - C43.9||Malignant melanoma of skin|
|C44.02, C44.121 - C44.129
C44.221 - C44.229, C44.320 - C44.329
C44.42, C44.520 - C44.529
C44.621 - C44.629, C44.721 - C44.729
|Squamous cell carcinoma|
|C44.01, C44.111 - C44.119,
C44.211 - C44.219, C44.310 - C44.319,
C44.41, C44.510 - C44.519,
C44.611 - C44.619, C44.711 - C44.719,C44.81, C44.91
|Basal cell carcinoma|
|C51.0 - C51.9, C57.7 - C57.9||Malignant neoplasm of vulva and other and unspecified female genital organs|
|C60.0 - C60.9, C63.00 - C63.9||Malignant neoplasm of penis and other and unspecified male genital organs|
|D04.0 - D04.9||Carcinoma in situ of skin [Bowen's disease]|
|D07.1 - D07.39||Carcinoma in situ of vulva and other and unspecified female genital organs|
|D07.60 - D07.69||Carcinoma in situ of other and unspecified male genital organs|
|D48.5||Neoplasm of uncertain behavior of skin [dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans]|