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Dr. Beck: BEAR® Implant Allows Injured ACL to Heal

Revolutionizing ACL Treatment: Introducing the BEAR® Implant

By Dr. Jennifer Beck
Orthopedic Surgeon at Boulder Medical Center

Approximately 400,000 ACL injuries occur in the U.S. every year. A torn ACL does not heal without treatment, making ACL reconstruction one of the most common orthopedic procedures in the U.S. Yet the procedure has drawbacks; some people cannot return to the same level of daily activities or sports.

The First Breakthrough in 30 Years: BEAR® Implant vs. ACL Reconstruction

Historically, orthopedic surgeons have had limited options in treating a torn ACL. With ACL reconstruction, today’s standard of care, the surgeon completely removes the remaining torn ACL and reconstructs it with either a tendon from the patient’s leg (called an autograft) or a deceased donor (called an allograft).

How BEAR® Implant Works: A Game-Changer in ACL Tear Treatment

A new technology called the BEAR® Implant is the first medical advancement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that enables the body to heal its own torn ACL. This new approach is a paradigm shift from ACL reconstruction and is the first innovation in ACL tear treatment in more than 30 years.

Advantages of the BEAR® Implant: Preserving the Native ACL

Unlike reconstruction, the BEAR Implant does not require a second surgical wound site to remove a healthy tendon from another part of the leg or use a donor tendon. The BEAR Implant acts as a bridge to help the ends of the torn ACL heal together. The surgeon injects a small amount of the patient’s blood into the implant and inserts it between the torn ends of the ACL in a minimally invasive procedure. The combination of the BEAR Implant and the patient’s blood enables the body to heal the torn ends of the ACL back together while maintaining the ACL’s original attachments to the femur and tibia. As the ACL heals, the body resorbs the BEAR Implant within approximately eight weeks.

Comparing Recovery: BEAR® Implant vs. ACL Reconstruction

Preserving a patient’s native ACL instead of replacing it with a graft has long been a goal of surgeons, as there are several advantages to restoring a ligament instead of replacing it. First, both ACL reconstruction approaches have an ACL re-tear rate as high as 20% for teens and as high as 9% for adults. Following ACL reconstruction, many athletes (more than 55%) can’t return to the same level of sport.

As with any surgery, ACL reconstruction has certain risks. Depending on the type of graft used, there can also be clinical complications. About half of the people who receive patellar tendon grafts experience pain while kneeling, and those who receive hamstring grafts have a persistent weakness—as much as a 50% deficit at two years. In addition, if the ACL is re-injured, revisions with the BEAR Implant are easier. Revisions to traditional ACL reconstruction can be complicated and require multiple surgeries.

Clinical studies have demonstrated that the BEAR Implant restores torn ACL quality and size similar to a patient’s non-injured ACL. Compared with autograft ACL reconstruction, it also has shown faster recovery of muscle strength and higher patient satisfaction with readiness to return to sport.

Considerations and Consultation: Is the BEAR® Implant Right for You?

If you are at least 14 years of age and have a complete rupture of the ACL (as confirmed by MRI), the BEAR Implant may be right for you. Patients should discuss their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment with their surgeon. The BEAR Implant has the same potential medical/surgical complications as other orthopedic surgical procedures, including ACL reconstruction. These include re-tear risk, infection, knee pain, meniscus injury, and limited range of motion.

Jennifer Beck, MD
Sports Medicine Physician & Orthopedic Surgeon

About Jennifer Beck, MD, FAAOS, SM-CAQ

Sports Medicine Physician and Orthopedic Surgeon
Boulder and Louisville, Colorado

Dr. Jennifer Beck is board-certified in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine for adults and children. Her specialty areas include:

  • ACL Tears
  • Patella Instability
  • Knee Surgery
  • Meniscus/Discoid Meniscus Arthroscopic Surgery
  • Arthroscopic Surgery
  • Fracture Management
  • Sports Injuries
  • Outpatient Surgical Procedures

Before opening her practice at Boulder Medical Center, Dr. Beck was Director of Outreach and Research at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles and an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at UCLA.