CAM 20185

Neural Therapy

Category:Medicine   Last Reviewed:January 2020
Department(s):Medical Affairs   Next Review:January 2021
Original Date:January 2012    

Description 
Neural therapy involves the injection of a local anesthetic such as procaine or lidocaine into various tissues such as scars, trigger points, acupuncture points, tendon and ligament insertions, peripheral nerves, autonomic ganglia, the epidural space and other tissues to treat chronic pain. Neural therapy has been proposed for other chronic illness syndromes such as allergies, infertility, tinnitus, depression, and chronic bowel problems. When the anesthetic agent is injected into traditional acupuncture points, this treatment may be called neural acupuncture.

For individuals who have chronic pain or illness who receive neural therapy, the evidence includes small randomized trials and a large case series. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, quality of life, medication use, and treatment-related morbidity. There are few English-language reports assessing the use of neural therapy for pain, and the available studies have methodologic limitations that preclude conclusions on efficacy. The evidence is insufficient to determine the effects of the technology on health outcomes. 

Background
The practice of neural therapy is based on the belief that energy flows freely through the body. It is proposed that injury, disease, malnutrition, stress, and scar tissue disrupt this flow, creating disturbances in the electrochemical function of tissues and energy imbalances called “interference fields.” Injection of a local anesthetic is believed to re-establish the normal resting potential of nerves and flow of energy. Alternative theories include fascial continuity, the ground (matrix) system, and the lymphatic system.1,

There is a strong focus on treatment of the autonomic nervous system, and injections may be given at a location other than the source of the pain or location of an injury. Neural therapy is promoted mainly to relieve chronic pain. It has also been proposed to be helpful for allergies, hay fever, headaches, arthritis, asthma, hormone imbalances, libido, infertility, tinnitus, chronic bowel problems, sports or muscle injuries, gallbladder, heart, kidney, or liver disease, dizziness, depression, menstrual cramps, and skin and circulation problems.

Regulatory Status
Neural therapy is a procedure and, as such, is not subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Related Policies:
20126 Prolotherapy
20196 Autonomic Nervous System Testing
50116 Intravenous Anesthetics for the Treatment of Chronic pain

Policy
Neural therapy is considered INVESTIGATIONAL for all indications.

Policy Guidelines
Neural therapy should be distinguished from the use of peripherally injected anesthetic agents for nerve blocks or local anesthesia. The site of the injection for neural therapy may be located far from the source of the pain or injury. The length of treatment can vary from 1 session to a series of sessions over a period of weeks or months.

There are no specific HCPCS codes for these local anesthetics when injected in this fashion (there is a code for IV lidocaine). The procedure would be reported using CPT codes for therapeutic injection such as:

20550: Injection(s); single tendon sheath, or ligament, aponeurosis

20551: Injection(s); single tendon origin/insertion

20552-20553: Code range for injection(s); single or multiple trigger point(s)

64400-64450: Code range for injection, anesthetic agent into nerves

64479-64484: Code range for injection, anesthetic agent and/or steroid, transforaminal epidural, with imaging guidance by spinal region

64505-64530: Code range for injection, anesthetic agent into autonomic nerves/ganglia

96372: Therapeutic, prophylactic, or diagnostic injection (specify substance or drug); subcutaneous or intramuscular

Rationale 
Evidence reviews 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, two domains are examined: the relevance and the quality and credibility. To be relevant, studies must represent one or more intended clinical uses 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 is preferred to assess efficacy; however, in some circumstances, nonrandomized studies may be adequate. Randomized controlled trials 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.

Neural Therapy
Neural therapy is an alternative medicine modality that was developed in Germany and is most commonly reported in Europe. Most of the literature on neural therapy consists of non-English-language publications.

Clinical Context and Therapy Purpose
The purpose of neural therapy in patients who have chronic pain or illness is to provide a treatment option that is an alternative to or an improvement on existing therapies.

The question addressed in this evidence review is: Does the use of neural therapy improve the net health outcome in patients with chronic pain or illness? 

The following PICO was used to select literature to inform this review.

Patients
The relevant population of interest is individuals with chronic pain or illness.

Interventions
The therapy being considered is neural therapy.

Comparators
The following practice is currently being used to treat chronic pain or illness: standard medical management.

Outcomes
The general outcomes of interest are improvements in functional outcomes and reductions in pain or illness as well as medication use. Follow-up varies by indication and by the number of injections required. Treatment may require a single or series of anesthetic injections over weeks or months.

Randomized Controlled Trials
Hui et al (2012) reported a nonblinded randomized controlled trial of complementary and alternative medicine for chronic herpes zoster-related pain.2, The 59 patients included in the trial had a confirmed diagnosis of herpes zoster of at least 30 days in duration (median, 4.8 months; range, 1 month to 15 years) and with at least moderate postherpetic neuralgia pain (≥4 on a 10-point Likert scale). The therapy included 3 weeks of neural therapy (injection of 1% procaine at up to 6 points along the affected dermatome) along with other therapies from traditional Chinese medicine (ie, acupuncture, cupping and bleeding, Chinese herbs) and meditation. A wait-list control group received the same treatment beginning 3 weeks after randomization. Intention-to-treat analysis of pain scores at 3 weeks showed significant improvement in the complementary and alternative medicine group (baseline, 7.5; posttreatment, 2.3), with little change in the wait-list control group (baseline, 7.8; 3 weeks, 7.2). A reduction in pain of at least 50% was observed in 66.7% of patients in the treatment group compared with 8.7% in the control group. In the 56% of patients who responded to a questionnaire after 1 to 2 years, 78.8% reported continued relief of pain. Interpretation of the results is limited by the multiple interventions provided and the possibility of a placebo effect in this nonblinded study.

One English-language report by Gibson and Gibson (1999) described a small double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial in 21 patients with multiple sclerosis.3, Anesthetic or saline was injected at acupuncture points in the ankle and at 14 or 15 points around the circumference of the head. Patients received 2 injections of anesthetic or saline in the first week; in the second week, all patients received anesthetic injections. At the end of the first week, 8 of 11 patients in the active treatment group and 1 of 10 in the placebo group had improved in 1 or more functions on the Kurtzke scale. Therapy was continued as needed for up to 3.5 years, with long-term improvements being reported in over 50% of patients. 

Nonrandomized Trials 
Egli et al (2015) reported on a series of 280 patients with chronic severe pain who had failed conventional medical measures.4, The most common reason for referral to the academic center in Europe was back pain, and more than two-thirds of patients had undergone physical therapy (PT), osteopathy, or chirotherapy. After an average of 9.2 treatments (range, 1-40) in the first year, 126 patients reported that they were considerably better and 41 reported being pain-free. Of the 193 patients who were taking pain medications at the start of treatment, three-quarters had reduced pain medication or were taking no pain medication after 1 year. 

A nonrandomized comparative study by Atalay et al (2013) compared neural therapy (n=33) with PT (n=27) for the treatment of chronic low back pain.5, The average duration of symptoms before treatment was 13.78 months. Patients who had not previously been treated with PT were assigned to the PT group, and patients who had previously failed PT were assigned to the neural therapy group. PT consisted of exercises, hot pack, ultrasound, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation over 15 sessions. Neural therapy consisted of anesthetic injection into scars, trigger points, and acupuncture points over 5 sessions. Outcome measurements included the visual analog score for pain, the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire for disability, the Nottingham Health Profile for quality of life, and the Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale for depression, anxiety, and quality of life. The neural therapy group exhibited greater disability and worse quality of life at baseline. Both groups improved over time, and there was greater improvement in the neural therapy group on some of the outcome measures. Interpretation of this study is limited due to lack of randomized treatment assignment, lack of comparability between groups at baseline, and lack of a placebo control.

Schmittinger et al (2011) reported on a case of brainstem hemorrhage following neural therapy for decreased libido.6,

Summary of Evidence
For individuals who have chronic pain or illness (eg, pain, allergies, hay fever, headaches, arthritis, asthma, hormone imbalances, libido, infertility, tinnitus, chronic bowel problems, sports or muscle injuries, gallbladder, heart, kidney, or liver disease, dizziness, depression, menstrual cramps, skin and circulation problems) who receive neural therapy, the evidence includes small randomized trials and a large case series. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, quality of life, medication use, and treatment-related morbidity. There are few English-language reports assessing the use of neural therapy for pain, and the available studies have methodologic limitations that preclude conclusions on efficacy. The evidence is insufficient to determine the effects of the technology on health outcomes.

PRACTICE GUIDELINES AND POSITION STATEMENTS
The American Association of Orthopaedic Medicine has described neural therapy on its website and provides a link for instructional courses on the procedure.7  

U.S. PREVENTIVE SERVICES TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
Not applicable. 

ONGOING AND UNPUBLISHED CLINICAL TRIALS
A search of ClinicalTrials.gov in October 2018 did not identify any ongoing or unpublished trials that would likely influence this review.

References:

  1. Frank BL. Neural therapy. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. Aug 1999;10(3):573-582, viii. PMID 10516978.
  2. Hui F, Boyle E, Vayda E, et al. A randomized controlled trial of a multifaceted integrated complementary- alternative therapy for chronic herpes zoster-related pain. Altern Med Rev. Mar 2012;17(1):57-68. PMID 22502623.
  3. Gibson RG, Gibson SL. Neural therapy in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. J Altern Complement Med. Dec 1999;5(6):543-552. PMID 10630348.
  4. Egli S, Pfister M, Ludin SM, et al. Long-term results of therapeutic local anesthesia (neural therapy) in 280 referred refractory chronic pain patients. BMC Complement Altern Med. Jun 27 2015;15:200. PMID 26115657.
  5. Atalay NS, Sahin F, Atalay A, et al. Comparison of efficacy of neural therapy and physical therapy in chronic low back pain. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. Oct 2013;10(3):431-435. PMID 24146471.
  6. Schmittinger CA, Schar R, Fung C, et al. Brainstem hemorrhage after neural therapy for decreased libido in a 31- year-old woman. J Neurol. Jul 2011;258(7):1354-1355. PMID 21286741.
  7. American Association of Orthopaedic Medicine. Neural Therapy. 2013; http://www.aaomed.org/Neural-therapy. Accessed September, 2019.

Coding Section

Codes Number Description
CPT   No specific codes, see Policy Guidelines
ICD-9-CM Diagnosis   Investigational for all diagnoses
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/01/15)   Investigational for all diagnoses
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/01/15)   ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services. There is no specific ICD-10-PCS code for this procedure
Type of Service    
Place of Service    

Procedure and diagnosis codes on Medical Policy documents are included only as a general reference tool for each policy. They may not be all-inclusive.

This medical policy was developed through consideration of peer-reviewed medical literature generally recognized by the relevant medical community, U.S. FDA approval status, nationally accepted standards of medical practice and accepted standards of medical practice in this community, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association technology assessment program (TEC) and other non-affiliated technology evaluation centers, reference to federal regulations, other plan medical policies, and accredited national guidelines.

"Current Procedural Terminology © American Medical Association.  All Rights Reserved" 

History From 2013 Forward     

01/09/2020 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. Updating background, rationale and references. 

01/10/2019 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. Updating rationale and references. 

02/07/2018 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. Updating description, rationale and references. 

01/04/2017 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. 

01/19/2016 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. Updating background, description, rationale and references. 

01/19/2015 

Annual review, no change to policy inent. Updating description, related policies, guidelines, rationale and references. Adding coding. 

01/13/2014

Annual review. Added related policies, updated rationale and references. No change to policy intent.


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