Ochsner Uses New Method for Repairing Torn ACL

Ochsner Baton Rouge Medical Director of Sports Medicine Jeremy Burnham, MD, recently used a breakthrough technology to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – a debilitating knee injury that cannot heal on its own.

The new procedure, which is still in clinical trials, uses the Bridge-Enhanced ACL Repair Implant, known as BEAR, a bioengineered material that provides an environment for the torn ligament ends to reattach themselves. The BEAR Implant procedure is minimally invasive.

“The goal of ACL surgery is to restore the native knee anatomy and stability. Traditionally, this has been done by reconstructing the ACL,” said Burnham. “However, the BEAR ACL repair procedure provides an alternative option by restoring the patient’s own ligament.”

The ACL is located in the middle of the knee and helps connect the femur to the tibia. When ACL tears occur, they’re often the result of a quick pivot motion, changing direction or stopping suddenly, or when landing from a jump. About 400,000 ACL injuries occur each year in the United States.

Since a torn ACL rarely heals without treatment, ACL reconstruction is one of the most common orthopedic procedures. In ACL reconstruction, the surgeon removes the entire torn ligament and rebuilds it with a tendon removed from the patient’s own leg in what is known as an autograft.

In the new procedure, the small, cylindrical BEAR Implant device is filled with a small amount of the patient’s blood and placed between the ends of the torn ligament. The implant allows a clot to form and serves as a bridge for the torn ACL ends to grow back together.

The benefit of the BEAR ACL repair technique is that it allows patients to keep their own ACL, instead of replacing it with separate tissue. Over time, the implant is absorbed into the patient’s body and replaced with native cells, collagen, and blood cells, repairing the tear and restoring the ligament’s original attachments to the femur and tibia.

The BEAR implant and technique was pioneered by Martha Murray, MD, at Boston Children’s Hospital, and the first human study was published in 2016. Follow-up clinical studies showed further success, and the procedure was granted FDA approval in December 2020. While more studies are underway, the BEAR ACL implant procedure has shown significant potential with younger athletes.