BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

Lysis of Epidural Adhesions


Lysis of epidural adhesions involves passage of a catheter endoscopically or percutaneously into the epidural space, where it may be manipulated mechanically or injected with various agents (anesthetics, corticosteroids, hyaluronidase or saline) to break up adhesions. The procedure may be performed with fluoroscopic guidance under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The procedure may be referred to as epidural adhesiolysis and has been investigated as a procedure to reduce or eliminate adhesions, fibrosis, or scars which most commonly occur as a complication of spinal surgery and may be included under the diagnosis of “failed back surgery syndrome”. Symptoms of epidural adhesions can include low back pain, radicular pain, muscular spasms and contractures, sphincter disturbances, and motor/sensory disturbances.

Endoscopic epidurolysis is also being investigated for the treatment of degenerative chronic low back pain, including spondylolisthesis, stenosis and hernia associated with radiculopathy.  Along with mechanical adhesiolysis, hyaluronidase, ciprofloxacin and ozone have been applied.




Published scientific evidence in the form of well-designed studies in peer-reviewed journals regarding the utilization of catheter based lysis of epidural adhesions continues to be lacking.  There remains insufficient evidence to permit conclusions regarding this technology at this time.


BlueCross BlueShield Association. Evidence Positioning System. (11:2018). Lysis of epidural adhesions. (8.01.18). Retrieved October 1, 2019 from (21 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

Gerdesmeyer, L., Wagenpfeil, S., Birkenmaier, C., Veihelmann, A., Hauschild, M., Wagner, K., et al. (2013). Percutaneous epidural lysis of adhesions in chronic lumbar radicular pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Pain Physician, 16, 185-196. (Level 1 evidence)

Helm, S., Hayek, S., M., Colson, J., Chopra, P., Deer, T. R., Justiz, R., et al. (2013). Spinal endoscopic adhesiolysis in post lumbar surgery syndrome: an update of the assessment of the evidence.  Pain Physician, 2013 (16) SE125-SE150. (Level 1 evidence)

Hsu, E., Atanelov, L., Plunkett, A., Chai, N., Chen, Y., and Cohen, S. (2014). Epidural lysis of adhesions for failed back surgery and spinal stenosis: factors associated with treatment outcome. Anesthesia Analgesia Journal, 118 (1), 215-24. Abstract retrieved November 20, 2017 from PubMed database.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. (2010, February). Procedural guidance: therapeutic endoscopic division of epidural adhesions. Retrieved January 9, 2012 from

Pereiro, P., Severo, M., Monteiro, P., Silva, P., Rebelo, V., Castro-Lopes, J., & Vaz, R. (2014). Results of lumbar endoscopic adhesiolysis using a radiofrequency catheter in patients with postoperative fibrosis and persistent or recurrent symptoms after discectomy. Pain Practice, the Official Journal of World Institute of Pain, 16 (1), 67-79. Abstract retrieved March 15, 2016 from PubMed database.




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