The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on prosthetic intervertebral disc replacement in the lumbar spine.


Artificial  intervertebral discs have been developed to act as a functional prosthetic replacement unit for intervertebral units in much the same way as prostheses have been developed for a variety of joints such as the hip or knee. The design of most prosthetic discs is similar, with two metallic endplates separated by a more pliable inner core designed to emulate the biomechanical properties of the nucleus pulposus. The implantation of the prosthetic discs involves a small incision below the umbilicus. The diseased disc is partially or fully excised (depending on the prosthesis used). The vertebral endplates and surrounding spinal ligaments are preserved and help maintain implant stability. Single discs can be replaced, or alternatively, several levels can be replaced during the same surgery. 

The standard intervention for patients with these indications would be discectomy and spinal fusion.

Coding recommendations

There are specific codes available within OPCS-4 to classify lumbar, thoracic and cervical disc replacement; one of the following codes is used depending on the site of the procedure:

V36.1 Prosthetic replacement of cervical intervertebral disc

V36.2 Prosthetic replacement of thoracic intervertebral disc

V36.3 Prosthetic replacement of lumbar intervertebral disc

An additional code will also be added from category V55.- to specify the number of  levels of spine operated on.

Note: Codes within category V55.-  are assigned in second place each time a spinal operation is coded, if the levels of spine are not specified V55.9 Unspecified levels of spine is used.

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