National Coverage Determination (NCD)

Refractive Keratoplasty


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Tracking Information

Publication Number
Manual Section Number
Manual Section Title
Refractive Keratoplasty
Version Number
Effective Date of this Version

Description Information

Benefit Category
No Benefit Category

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

Item/Service Description

Refractive keratoplasty is surgery to reshape the cornea of the eye to correct vision problems such as myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). Refractive keratoplasty procedures include keratomileusis, in which the front of the cornea is removed, frozen, reshaped, and stitched back on the eye to correct either near or farsightedness; keratophakia, in which a reshaped donor cornea is inserted in the eye to correct farsightedness; and radial keratotomy, in which spoke-like slits are cut in the cornea to weaken and flatten the normally curved central portion to correct nearsightedness.

Indications and Limitations of Coverage

The correction of common refractive errors by eyeglasses, contact lenses or other prosthetic devices is specifically excluded from coverage. The use of radial keratotomy and/or keratoplasty for the purpose of refractive error compensation is considered a substitute or alternative to eye glasses or contact lenses, which are specifically excluded by §1862(a)(7) of the Act (except in certain cases in connection with cataract surgery). In addition, many in the medical community consider such procedures cosmetic surgery, which is excluded by section §1862(a)(10) of the Act. Therefore, radial keratotomy and keratoplasty to treat refractive defects are not covered.

Keratoplasty that treats specific lesions of the cornea, such as phototherapeutic keratectomy that removes scar tissue from the visual field, deals with an abnormality of the eye and is not cosmetic surgery. Such cases may be covered under §1862(a)(1)(A) of the Act.

The use of lasers to treat ophthalmic disease constitutes opthalmalogic surgery. Coverage is restricted to practitioners who have completed an approved training program in ophthalmologic surgery.

Transmittal Information

Transmittal Number
Revision History

05/1997 - Clarified that refractive keratoplasty to correct refractive error not covered because it is excluded under sections 1862(a)(7) and 1862(a)(10) of the Act. Keratoplasty to treat specific lesion of cornia covered as it does not constitute cosmetic surgery. Effective date NA. (TN 99)

Additional Information

Other Versions
Title Version Effective Between
Refractive Keratoplasty 1 05/01/1997 - N/A You are here