National Coverage Determination (NCD)

Electrical Nerve Stimulators


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Tracking Information

Publication Number
Manual Section Number
Manual Section Title
Electrical Nerve Stimulators
Version Number
Effective Date of this Version
Ending Effective Date of this Version
Implementation Date
Implementation QR Modifier Date

Description Information

Benefit Category
Prosthetic Devices

Please Note: This may not be an exhaustive list of all applicable Medicare benefit categories for this item or service.

Item/Service Description
Indications and Limitations of Coverage

Two general classifications of electrical nerve stimulators are employed to treat chronic intractable pain: peripheral nerve stimulators and central nervous system stimulators.

A. Implanted Peripheral Nerve Stimulators

Payment may be made under the prosthetic device benefit for implanted peripheral nerve stimulators. Use of this stimulator involves implantation of electrodes around a selected peripheral nerve. The stimulating electrode is connected by an insulated lead to a receiver unit which is implanted under the skin at a depth not greater than 1/2 inch.

Stimulation is induced by a generator connected to an antenna unit which is attached to the skin surface over the receiver unit. Implantation of electrodes requires surgery and usually necessitates an operating room.

NOTE: Peripheral nerve stimulators may also be employed to assess a patient’s suitability for continued treatment with an electric nerve stimulator. As explained in §160.7.1, such use of the stimulator is covered as part of the total diagnostic service furnished to the beneficiary rather than as a prosthesis.

B. Central Nervous System Stimulators (Dorsal Column and Depth Brain Stimulators)

The implantation of central nervous system stimulators may be covered as therapies for the relief of chronic intractable pain, subject to the following conditions:

1. Types of Implantations

There are two types of implantations covered by this instruction:

  • Dorsal Column (Spinal Cord) Neurostimulation - The surgical implantation of neurostimulator electrodes within the dura mater (endodural) or the percutaneous insertion of electrodes in the epidural space is covered.
  • Depth Brain Neurostimulation - The stereotactic implantation of electrodes in the deep brain (e.g., thalamus and periaqueductal gray matter) is covered.

2. Conditions for Coverage

No payment may be made for the implantation of dorsal column or depth brain stimulators or services and supplies related to such implantation, unless all of the conditions listed below have been met:

  • The implantation of the stimulator is used only as a late resort (if not a last resort) for patients with chronic intractable pain;
  • With respect to item a, other treatment modalities (pharmacological, surgical, physical, or psychological therapies) have been tried and did not prove satisfactory, or are judged to be unsuitable or contraindicated for the given patient;
  • Patients have undergone careful screening, evaluation and diagnosis by a multidisciplinary team prior to implantation. (Such screening must include psychological, as well as physical evaluation);
  • All the facilities, equipment, and professional and support personnel required for the proper diagnosis, treatment training, and follow up of the patient (including that required to satisfy item c) must be available; and
  • Demonstration of pain relief with a temporarily implanted electrode precedes permanent implantation.

Medicare Administrative Contractors may find it helpful to work with Quality Improvement Organizations to obtain the information needed to apply these conditions to claims.

Cross Reference
Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 15, “Covered Medical and Other Health Services,” §120, and the following sections in this manual, §§160.2 and 30.1
Claims Processing Instructions

Transmittal Information

Transmittal Number
Revision History

07/1995 - Determined that TENS covered under durable medical equipment benefit rather than prosthetic device benefit. Effective date 08/07/1995. (TN 78)

06/1988 - Added cross-references to section 45-25. Effective date 07/14/1988. (TN 26)


National Coverage Analyses (NCAs)

This NCD has been or is currently being reviewed under the National Coverage Determination process. The following are existing associations with NCAs, from the National Coverage Analyses database.

Coding Analyses for Labs (CALs)

This NCD has been or is currently being reviewed under the National Coverage Determination process. The following are existing associations with CALs, from the Coding Analyses for Labs database.

Additional Information

Other Versions
Title Version Effective Between
Electrical Nerve Stimulators 1 08/07/1995 - N/A You are here
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Reasons for Denial
Note: This section has not been negotiated by the Negotiated RuleMaking Committee. It includes CMS’s interpretation of it’s longstanding policies and is included for informational purposes. Tests for screening purposes that are performed in the absense of signs, symptoms, complaints, or personal history of disease or injury are not covered except as explicity authorized by statue. These include exams required by insurance companies, business establishments, government agencies, or other third parties. Tests that are not reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of an illness or injury are not covered according to the statue. Failure to provide documentation of the medical necessity of tests may result in denial of claims. The documentation may include notes documenting relevant signs, symptoms, or abnormal findings that substantiate the medical necessity for ordering the tests. In addition, failure to provide independent verification that the test was ordered by the treating physician (or qualified nonphysician practitioner) through documentation in the physician’s office may result in denial. A claim for a test for which there is a national coverage or local medical review policy will be denied as not reasonable and necessary if it is submitted without an ICD-9-CM code or narrative diagnosis listed as covered in the policy unless other medical documentation justifying the necessity is submitted with the claim. If a national or local policy identifies a frequency expectation, a claim for a test that exceeds that expectation may be denied as not reasonable and necessary, unless it is submitted with documentation justifying increased frequency. Tests that are not ordered by a treating physician or other qualified treating nonphysician practitioner acting within the scope of their license and in compliance with Medicare requirements will be denied as not reasonable and necessary. Failure of the laboratory performing the test to have the appropriate Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act of 1988 (CLIA) certificate for the testing performed will result in denial of claims.