Technology that enables a devastating sports injury to heal itself? At Connecticut Children’s, it’s no longer beyond imagination.
Connecticut Children’s recently became the first health system in Connecticut to use the BEAR® Implant to treat a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the most common sports injuries in the U.S. The implant is injected with a small amount of the patient’s own blood, then inserted in the knee using a minimally invasive procedure. Over time, it acts as a bridge to help the ACL heal itself.
It’s a huge shift from the standard treatment for ACL tears: Until now, a patient’s best option usually involved major surgery and borrowing healthy tissue from another spot in their knee.
Luna, age 15, knew right away that the BEAR Implant was the option for her. “It’s far less invasive and less painful than a traditional ACL replacement,” she says. “It’s really quite amazing technology.”
It’s also a milestone for every young athlete in Connecticut.
“You definitely want Connecticut Children’s”
Luna injured her leg skiing on her 15th birthday. Her first thought, when she tried to stand up and couldn’t, was that she’d torn her ACL. Her second thought was of scuba diving. She’d gotten certified in preparation for a big family trip later this year, planned in honor of her quinceañera. She imagined navigating all of it on crutches, and her heart sank…
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Connecticut Children’s offers five convenient locations, including same-day care.
She put on a brave face as she rode the first aid sled down the mountain, waving to her father and brother, who were recording on their phones. Her father, Diego, is the family’s self-appointed documentarian.
“The entirety of our extended family knew about my injury before my friends did,” Luna jokes.
At first, her parents took her to an adult urgent care. She was referred to a general orthopedic surgeon, who informed them about Luna’s options for a traditional ACL repair. It wasn’t a great experience.
“I walked away thinking, I need somebody who specializes in young people who are very active,” says Luna’s mom, Jessica. “And I wanted her to have a doctor with a good bedside manner. That’s important when your patient is young and scared and disappointed that their spring and summer and sports are going to be impacted.”
When they asked Luna’s pediatrician, Barbara Ziogas, MD, for advice, she told them: “You definitely want to go to Connecticut Children’s.”
“I’ll be ready”
They were thrilled. Not only could Luna get care in their own town – Connecticut Children’s offers five convenient Sports Medicine locations throughout Connecticut – but from the moment they entered the space, they felt a difference.
The other office hadn’t been able to show them Luna’s MRI, and the doctor seemed bothered by their questions. Connecticut Children’s team had a mobile MRI unit they brought right into Luna’s exam room, and pediatric orthopedic surgeon Allison Crepeau, MD, was warm and detailed. When the family asked if they could schedule surgery right away, Dr. Crepeau said yes.
Then there was the surgery itself. At Connecticut Children’s, Luna had an option she couldn’t get anywhere else in Connecticut: the BEAR Implant, FDA-approved for patients ages 14 and up with certain types of ACL tears.
“This is a very exciting option to have in our toolbox,” says Dr. Crepeau. “It has the advantage of possibly decreasing pain and trauma to the knee related to the surgery. It also means no tissue needs to be borrowed to make the new ACL, and there’s no second surgical wound site.”
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Luna’s extracurricular activities, like hiking, figure skating, and cross country running, are back on the table. So is her big birthday trip. “Dr. Crepeau is confident I’ll be ready,” she says.
“These are great role models”
There is something else remarkable about the experience. Luna plans to be a pediatric doctor herself someday, specializing in newborns. Having Dr. Crepeau perform a pioneering surgery, with technology developed by a female mentor, is symbolic.
“These are great role models for my daughter,” says Jessica. “It’s extremely motivating for young ladies who are looking at going into medicine.”
Now Luna is a role model too, paving the way for other young athletes. Her surgery was the first of its kind in Connecticut, introducing breakthrough technology that was once beyond imagination.
“The BEAR Implant creates an environment for my ACL to heal itself,” Luna says. “It’s an amazing technology and procedure. And hey, being first in the state – that sounds pretty good on a college application, doesn’t it?”