Treatments & Research

BEARing a Successful Outcome

Karli was the first patient to receive the innovative BEAR Implant at Shriners Children’s Hawai‘i.

BEAR Implants help patients overcome ACL injuries and accelerate recovery

It was the last jump of the day. Karli, a high school senior, was practicing with her cheer squad when she landed hard. “I heard a popping noise in my knee and knew immediately that something was bad,” she said.

When an MRI revealed she had torn her ACL, Karli was heartbroken. Her cheerleading season was over.

Karli had the worst type of ACL injury, a complete tear of this important ligament that connects the thighbone to the shinbone. ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing. As participation in youth sports increases and competition intensifies, sports injuries are on the rise, especially for teenage athletes.

Revolutionizing ACL repair

Shriners Children’s orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Koenig, M.D., holds the BEAR Implant in his hand. He was part of the team that performed the first pediatric BEAR Implant procedure in Pasadena, California, in June 2022.

Historically, orthopedic surgeons have had limited options in treating a torn ACL, and major reconstruction surgery has long been the approach to repairing the ligament. This typically includes surgically removing a tendon from another part of the patient’s body and using it for repair. But Shriners Children’s is at the forefront of a new technology offering a less invasive ACL repair approach.

The BEAR® Implant, or bridge-enhanced ACL repair, is the first FDA-approved medical advancement that enables the body to heal its own torn ACL. This new approach is the first innovation in ACL treatment in more than 30 years. Four Shriners Children’s locations currently offer BEAR Implant treatment for qualified patients: Honolulu, Hawai`i; Pasadena, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Greenville, South Carolina.

Shriners Children’s Hawai`i was the first hospital in Hawai`i to offer the BEAR Implant, and Karli was the first patient in the state to undergo the surgery.

What is the BEAR Implant? Shriners Children’s Hawai`i orthopedic surgeon Craig M. Ono, M.D., describes it as a small cylinder made of tissue inserted between the torn ends of the ACL. It is injected with a small amount of the patient’s blood, enveloping the repair site and promoting healing. Since the BEAR Implant does not require a second surgical site, the treatment minimizes complications, decreases pain and can make for a less difficult rehabilitation after surgery.

“Karli has healed very well with this novel approach. Like most of our Shriners Children’s patients, she is confident and highly motivated, which helped in her recovery. We are very happy with this successful outcome,” said Dr. Ono.

Rebounding from injuries sooner

Richard remains determined in physical therapy after tearing his ACL during a basketball game with friends.

Sean R. Waldron, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, is leading the way in offering this breakthrough technology at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia. The hospital started offering the BEAR procedure in 2023.

“Currently, the BEAR Implant is approved for patients 12 and older with closed growth plates, though depending on the surgeon’s expertise and clinical judgment, we can offer this procedure to our younger patients as well,” said Dr. Waldron, who was the first pediatric surgeon in the Philadelphia area to offer this innovative approach to ACL repair.

For Richard, 16, it was a typical day playing basketball with his friends when a collision sent him to the ground. He felt his knee pop and hyperextend. “As a competitive swimmer for my high school team, I never expected to tear my ACL,” he said.

That’s when he consulted with Dr. Waldron and became the first Shriners Children’s Philadelphia patient to undergo the BEAR Implant procedure.

Physical therapy is important for all sports injuries, and the on-site rehabilitation team created a personalized care plan for Richard. “I was kind of scared to try this new procedure at first, but within three weeks of surgery, I was already able to bend my knee 90 degrees,” he said.

“I am excited to offer this groundbreaking technique to the pediatric athletes in our area,” said Dr. Waldron. “Early data shows positive long-term outcomes, and our patients are doing very well. They feel better and progress more quickly through their rehab. We are happy to help them return to the sports they love.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION on BEAR Implant surgery at Shriners Children’s, call 800-237-5055.