ACL Self-Repair Moving Toward Reality
Attempts by orthopaedists to repair torn human ACLs have failed for the most part, so surgeons now rely almost exclusively on removing the torn ligament and replacing it with autograft or allograft tissue. But now research at Harvard by Martha Murray, MD—a co-author of several JBJS studies—suggests that a torn ACL can be prompted to repair itself.
As Dr. Murray explains in a video, “bridge-enhanced” ACL repair uses stitches and a spongy scaffold injected with the patient’s blood placed between the torn ends of the ACL. The bridge helps healing clots to form and helps surrounding cells grow to rejoin the ends of the ligament. Preclinical studies using this technique have resulted in successful ACL repairs and rates of subsequent knee arthritis that were lower than those seen with reconstruction techniques. Bridge-enhanced ACL repair would also eliminate the need for tissue harvesting in the many patients who choose the autograft reconstruction option.
After reviewing the data from the preclinical studies, the FDA approved the first safety study of this technique in humans, which is now underway.