Bridge-Enhanced Anterior Cruciate Ligament Repair Is Not Inferior to Autograft Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction at 2 Years: Results of a Prospective Randomized Clinical Trial

Am J Sports Med. 2020 May;48(6):1305-1315. doi: 10.1177/0363546520913532. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


Background: Preclinical studies suggest that for complete midsubstance anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, a suture repair of the ACL augmented with a protein implant placed in the gap between the torn ends (bridge-enhanced ACL repair [BEAR]) may be a viable alternative to ACL reconstruction (ACLR).

Hypothesis: We hypothesized that patients treated with BEAR would have a noninferior patient-reported outcomes (International Knee Documentation Committee [IKDC] Subjective Score; prespecified noninferiority margin, -11.5 points) and instrumented anteroposterior (AP) knee laxity (prespecified noninferiority margin, +2-mm side-to-side difference) and superior muscle strength at 2 years after surgery when compared with patients who underwent ACLR with autograft.

Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.

Methods: One hundred patients (median age, 17 years; median preoperative Marx activity score, 16) with complete midsubstance ACL injuries were enrolled and underwent surgery within 45 days of injury. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either BEAR (n = 65) or autograft ACLR (n = 35 [33 with quadrupled semitendinosus-gracilis and 2 with bone-patellar tendon-bone]). Outcomes-including the IKDC Subjective Score, the side-to-side difference in instrumented AP knee laxity, and muscle strength-were assessed at 2 years by an independent examiner blinded to the procedure. Patients were unblinded after their 2-year visit.

Results: In total, 96% of the patients returned for 2-year follow-up. Noninferiority criteria were met for both the IKDC Subjective Score (BEAR, 88.9 points; ACLR, 84.8 points; mean difference, 4.1 points [95% CI, -1.5 to 9.7]) and the side-to-side difference in AP knee laxity (BEAR, 1.61 mm; ACLR, 1.77 mm; mean difference, -0.15 mm [95% CI, -1.48 to 1.17]). The BEAR group had a significantly higher mean hamstring muscle strength index than the ACLR group at 2 years (98.2% vs 63.2%; P < .001). In addition, 14% of the BEAR group and 6% of the ACLR group had a reinjury that required a second ipsilateral ACL surgical procedure (P = .32). Furthermore, the 8 patients who converted from BEAR to ACLR in the study period and returned for the 2-year postoperative visit had similar primary outcomes to patients who had a single ipsilateral ACL procedure.

Conclusion: BEAR resulted in noninferior patient-reported outcomes and AP knee laxity and superior hamstring muscle strength when compared with autograft ACLR at 2-year follow-up in a young and active cohort. These promising results suggest that longer-term studies of this technique are justified.

Registration: NCT02664545 ( identifier).

Keywords: ACL reconstruction; ACL repair; BEAR; anterior cruciate ligament; bridge-enhanced ACL repair; human; scaffold-enhanced ACL repair.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries* / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / methods
  • Autografts
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data