This common knee injury typically requires reconstruction surgery, but a new type of treatment that harnesses biologics is changing that.
A blown anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is the fear of athletes everywhere, or almost anyone who has a knee. Treatment for a torn ACL typically involves surgically reconstructing the ligament with harvested tissue.
But what if a new type of treatment could prompt the ruptured ligament to just grow back together again, eliminating the need to harvest replacement tissue?
Moving beyond reconstruction toward restoration, or enabling the ligament to repair itself, is the idea behind an emerging area of orthopedics that looks to harness biologics—in some cases animal tissue augmented with human blood and other growth factors—to rally the body’s natural healing processes.
One method that’s already in use in some cases is the Bridge-Enhanced ACL Restoration Implant—known as the BEAR implant—which encourages the stumps of a torn ACL to grow back together. The procedure utilizes a cylindrical marshmallow-like implant made of bovine collagen injected with a patient’s blood, and the growth factors therein that proponents say can help jump-start healing.
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- A loud pop or a “popping” sensation in the knee.
- Severe pain and inability to continue the activity.
- Rapid swelling.
- Loss of range of motion.
- A feeling of instability or “giving way” with weight bearing.
You’re given general anesthesia. This means you’re unconscious for the procedure. You’ll have pain, swelling, and stiffness after the surgery. It can be two or three weeks before you walk without crutches.
When you’ve torn your ACL you will lose a range of motion. Try bending your knee and then straightening it out. If you can’t bend your knee to a 90-degree angle or straighten out your leg because of pain, stiffness, and swelling, then it is likely that you’ve torn your ACL.
The time it takes to recover is approximately 3 months.
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