Anterior cruciate ligament surgery (ACL), a scourge of athletes of every age and competition level, appears on the cusp of becoming significantly less onerous, results from an experimental surgery trial at Boston Children’s Hospital now show.
During the past year, 10 adult patients have undergone a procedure known as “Bridge Enhanced ACL Repair,” which allows doctors to use a sponge soaked with the patient’s blood to repair a torn ACL rather replacing it with a tendon from another part of the patient’s body. According to the surgeons overseeing the study, every patient’s ACL is now every bit as strong as a traditionally replaced ACL at a similar stage of rehabilitation.
“I didn’t think we would see all of them perform this way,” said Dr. Martha Murray, who first began performing the procedures on pigs. “I thought maybe we would get seven out of 10.”
If the success continues during subsequent tests, the procedure will be considered a significant breakthrough in ACL surgery. Rehabilitation from ACL surgery is particularly slow because because doctors usually have to use either a patellar tendon or part of the hamstring tendon to replace the ACL of an active child or adult. That forces patients to recover from two injuries rather than just one, adding weeks, if not months, to the recovery.
Dr. Lyle Micheli, the lead surgeon on the ACL experiment, said roughly two-thirds of the patients that undergo a traditional replacement still show weakness in their hamstrings after six months.