Collegiate rugby player travels from California for treatment that enables injured ACL to heal itself
(Voorhees, N.J.…) Virtua Health is the first health system in New Jersey to offer the BEAR® Implant to treat tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the most common knee injuries. Sean McMillan, DO, sports medicine surgeon at Virtua Orthopedics & Spine, is the first surgeon in the state to have performed the procedure; his first patient was a collegiate rugby player from the University of California, Berkley.
The BEAR® Implant is considered the first medical advancement to enable the body to heal its own torn ACL. This novel approach is a change from the current standard of care that has been utilized for the last 30 years—reconstruction that replaces the ACL with a graft. Virtua Orthopedics & Spine is one of only a few practices nationwide selected for the clinical trial.
“The ability to save a patient’s ligament rather than replace it has many advantages,” explained Dr. McMillan. “Encouraging clinical studies have shown faster recovery of muscle strength and higher patient satisfaction, which makes the BEAR® Implant especially ideal for younger athletes.”
Every year, approximately 400,000 ACL injuries occur in the United States. A torn ACL does not heal without treatment, making ACL reconstruction one of the most common orthopedic procedures in the country. During a traditional ACL reconstruction, the surgeon completely removes the remaining torn ligament and reconstructs it with either a tendon from the patient’s leg (called an autograft) or a deceased donor (called an allograft).
The BEAR® Implant, by contrast, acts as a bridge to help the torn ACL heal. The implant, injected with the patient’s own blood, is inserted between the torn ends of the ACL in a minimally invasive procedure. This enables the ACL to fuse back together, maintaining the original attachments to the femur and tibia. As the ACL heals, the implant is resorbed by the body within approximately eight weeks. Early research has shown that the implant and ACL restoration procedure may reduce the risk of long-term arthritis, which is a concern after ACL reconstruction.
California Rugby Player Chooses Virtua
Phoebe Anderson, a 20-year-old student at UC Berkley, was Dr. McMillan’s first patient to undergo the BEAR® Implant procedure after tearing her ACL in a November 2021 match. Phoebe and her mother, Larissa, discovered the new procedure while researching surgical options.
“We were looking for the best care for Phoebe and were intrigued by what we read,” said Larissa. “Regenerating [tissue] is less invasive than reconstructing and seems to put less stress on the body. As Phoebe is a young, competitive athlete, we want to make sure she has the best opportunity to continue with sports and fitness well into the future.”
Larissa contacted Miach Orthopaedics, manufacturer of the BEAR® Implant, and secured a list of participating physicians. She chose Dr. McMillan over surgeons closer to home because of his expertise and experience in sports medicine.
“Dr. McMillan has an illustrious career, extensive credentials, and excellent patient reviews. All that, coupled with our having an extended family support network in New Jersey, gave us faith to move ahead,” explained Larissa. “We are grateful for Dr. McMillan and look forward to Phoebe’s return to sports after her rehabilitation.”
“I look forward to getting back on the rugby field. I am extremely happy that I was able to have this procedure,” Phoebe said.
Virtua’s Participation in BEAR® III Clinical Trials
Virtua Orthopedics & Spine is the only orthopedic practice in the region participating in BEAR® III Clinical Trials. Dr. McMillan performed Anderson’s surgery at the Centennial Surgical Center in Voorhees, N.J.
Patients who qualify for the BEAR® Implant have the option of using their health insurance to cover costs, or, if they participate in the clinical trial that will gather long-term data, then the device and procedure are free of charge.
“I believe Virtua was selected as a clinical trial site for many reasons. As evidenced by the recent affiliation agreement with Rowan University, Virtua is dedicated to providing the highest quality of innovative research in support of our patients,” explained Dr. McMillan, who is a member of the orthopedic surgery faculty at Rowan’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. “Virtua’s research department has worked tirelessly to ensure that the process is on-point. Their outstanding efforts allow trial sponsors to see that Virtua is proficient in this high-caliber research.”
About Virtua Health:
Virtua Health is committed to helping the people of South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted health care services. Virtua’s 14,000 colleagues provide tertiary care, including a renowned cardiology program, complemented by a community-based care portfolio. In addition to five hospitals, two satellite emergency departments, 28 ambulatory surgery centers, and more than 300 other locations, Virtua brings health services directly into communities through home health, rehabilitation, mobile screenings, and its paramedic program. Virtua has 2,850 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, and its specialties include orthopedics, advanced surgery, and maternity. Virtua is affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics. As a not-for-profit, Virtua is committed to the wellbeing of the community and provides innovative outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, most notably the “Eat Well” food access initiative, which includes the unparalleled Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store. A Magnet-recognized health system ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Virtua has received many awards for quality, safety, and its outstanding work environment. For more information, visit Virtua.org.