Shoulder Slap Tear Arthroscopy

What is a SLAP tear?

Labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder joint socket. An injury to the labrum is known as a SLAP tear. SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. In a SLAP tear, the superior part of the labrum is damaged. This is the area where the labrum and biceps tendon attaches to each other. A SLAP tear can occur at the front or back of the attachment point.

What causes a shoulder SLAP tear?

Labrum injuries can be caused due to repetitive shoulder motion or trauma. SLAP injury may be caused due to:

  • Fall
  • Motor accident
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Rapid or forceful movement
  • Forceful pulling on the arm

Athletes who participate in repetitive overhead sports activities usually experience labrum tears. 

What are the symptoms of SLAP tear?

Patients with SLAP tear may experience same symptoms of certain other shoulder conditions. Some of the common symptoms of SLAP tear are:

A popping, grinding or locking sensation in the shoulder
When while moving the shoulder
Pain while lifting certain objects with the shoulder
Stiffness or decreased range of motion
Decrease in shoulder strength

When surgery is required? How is arthroscopic surgery for SLAP tear performed?

The doctor may suggest surgery when the pain and other symptoms does not improve with nonsurgical treatments.Arthroscopy is the most common surgical technique used to treat SLAP tear. During the procedure, the surgeon will first make a small incision at the surgical area. Through the incision, he/she will insert an arthroscope (a tiny instrument hving a camera attached to it). The camera will display a clear view of the inside structures. The surgeon will use miniature instruments and the camera visuals will guide the procedure. There are various types of repair options for SLAP tear. The surgeon will choose the best suitable way to treat the condition. The surgeon may either remove  the torn portion of the labrum or reattach the torn protion with sutures.

What are the complications and risks of arthroscopic SLAP tear surgery?

Complications and risks are very less to arthroscopic surgery when compared to open surgery. However, there can be minimal and treatable risks and complications as with any surgery. Some of the potential issues are:

  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Damage to blood vessels or nerves
  • Blood clots

What about the recovery and rehabilitation?

The doctor may suggest the patient to use a slinger for 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery. There can be some pain and swelling in the initial stage, which will decrease with medications and physical therapies. The therapy will be focused on the mobility of the shoulder joint. It may take around 3-4 months of time for a complete recovery.

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