Less invasive treatment option helping ACL surgery recovery time

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, amateur athlete, or a pro, tearing your anterior cruciate ligament or ACL can sideline you for several months, possibly even a year.

Nearly 200,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year. Now, there’s a new, less invasive treatment option that can get athletes back in the game faster than ever before.

With every leg lift, Jenna Richardson is one step closer to getting back to the things she loves.

“About every other weekend when we can fly all over the world to ski. I love to surf, and we travel all around the world for that, too,” said Richardson.

It was the last run of the day on her mountain bike that stopped her in her tracks.

“I was riding down a big rock, and the back of the bike kind of flew around to the front of the bike. My front tire got stuck, and my knee went with it,” Richardson said.

She completely tore her ACL, a band of tissue that runs through the center of the knee. In the past, orthopedic surgeon Tim Wang would need to build a new ACL from tissue from the patient’s other healthy knee or cadaver tissue, requiring two surgical sites. But now, this tiny implant is repairing ligaments from the inside out in one procedure.

“This is one of the first times that we’re able to repair somebody’s own ACL and support it as it heals with a collagen sponge,” said Dr. Tim Wang, an orthopedic surgeon at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego.

Through a tiny incision, surgeons stitch the ligaments together, then insert the bridge-enhanced ACL repair, or BEAR, implant between the torn ligaments.

“It’s about the size of a marshmallow, and we soak it and load it with the patient’s own blood and insert that into the knee through a small incision,” said Wang,

The collagen helps to heal the gap between the two ends of the ruptured ligament. The patient’s body absorbs the implant material within a few months.

Benefits include a less invasive, single-site surgery, less time in the operating room, shorter healing time, and recovery.

The BEAR implant is the only device cleared by the FDA for ACL restoration.

You must be at least 14 years old, with a complete ACL rupture, and it must be implanted within 50 days of the injury. Nationwide, a hundred surgeons in 26 states are performing the BEAR procedure.

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