SLAP Tear Surgery: Procedure and Recovery | PreferredMD
Orthopedic Surgery

SLAP Tear Surgery: Procedure and Recovery

Procedure • By Biraj Patel

In the world of orthopedic surgery, SLAP repair surgery stands as a crucial procedure for individuals suffering from shoulder injuries. SLAP, which stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior, refers to a tear in the labrum, a ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket. 

Types of SLAP lesions

SLAP lesions can be categorized into four main types.

  • Type I — This type involves a fraying of the labrum but no actual tear.
  • Type II — The most common type, it signifies a tear of the labrum and the attached biceps tendon.
  • Type III — In this type, the labrum is intact, but the biceps tendon is torn.
  • Type IV — This is the most severe type, where the labrum and the biceps tendon are both torn and separated from the glenoid socket.

Treatment of SLAP injuries

The treatment of a SLAP injury depends on its type and severity. 

Conservative management 

For Type I, and some Type II SLAP tears, non-surgical approaches like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended. In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be administered to reduce pain and inflammation associated with SLAP tears.

SLAP tear surgery

More severe cases, especially Type II, III, and IV tears, often require surgical intervention.

Diagnosis of SLAP tears

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Diagnosis methods include a physical examination, imaging tests like MRI, and sometimes an arthroscopy to directly visualize the injury.

Indications for SLAP tear surgery

The decision to have SLAP tear surgery should be made in consultation with a qualified orthopedic surgeon and should be based on several factors, including the severity of your SLAP tear, your symptoms, and your individual goals and circumstances. 

Here are some guidelines on when SLAP tear surgery may be considered.

Persistent pain

If you are experiencing persistent pain in your shoulder, especially if it limits your daily activities or affects your quality of life, despite conservative treatments such as physical therapy and rest, surgery may be considered.

Loss of function

If your SLAP tear is causing a significant loss of shoulder function, impacting your ability to perform essential tasks or participate in sports or activities you enjoy, surgery might be recommended to restore function.

Type and severity of tear

The type and severity of your SLAP tear play a crucial role in the decision-making process. Type II, III, and IV tears, which involve substantial damage to the labrum or biceps tendon, often require surgical intervention.

Young and active individuals

Young, active individuals, particularly athletes, may be more inclined to undergo surgery to regain full shoulder strength and function to return to their sports or activities.

Failed conservative treatment

If you've tried conservative treatments such as physical therapy, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications, and have not experienced significant improvement in your symptoms, surgery may be considered as the next step.

Patient preferences

Ultimately, the decision to have SLAP tear surgery should also consider your preferences and goals. Discuss your expectations and desired outcomes with your orthopedic surgeon to ensure that surgery aligns with your objectives.

Not all SLAP tears require surgery. Type I tears, which involve fraying but no actual tear, may be managed conservatively. Moreover, the decision should be made on an individual basis, taking into account the specific characteristics of your injury and your overall health.

SLAP repair surgery

SLAP repair surgery is a specialized procedure that aims to reattach or repair the torn labrum and, if needed, the biceps tendon. It is typically performed arthroscopically, involving small incisions and the use of a camera-guided instrument.

During the surgery, the orthopedic surgeon uses tiny incisions to access the damaged area. The torn labrum is then reattached using sutures or anchors, restoring stability to the shoulder joint. The biceps tendon may also be addressed if damaged.

Preparing for SLAP repair surgery

To prepare for SLAP repair surgery effectively, consult with your orthopedic surgeon to understand the procedure and ask any questions. Follow pre-surgery instructions, such as fasting before the surgery and discontinuing certain medications.

As driving may be restricted post-surgery, it’s best to arrange for transportation on the day of surgery. In addition, prepare your home for a comfortable recovery, including necessary supplies and assistance if needed.

Follow-up care post SLAP tear surgery

Post-operative care includes physical therapy to regain shoulder strength and mobility. The recovery timeline varies, but may take several months. Patients will need to follow their surgeon's recommendations for exercises and lifestyle modifications.

Discuss SLAP repair surgery with the best orthopedic surgeons on PreferredMD

SLAP repair surgery is a crucial procedure for individuals suffering from shoulder labrum tears. Selecting the right orthopedic surgeon is paramount. A skilled surgeon can significantly impact the outcome and your overall health and satisfaction during the surgical process. On PreferredMD, all specialists have been thoroughly evaluated by their peers and patients. So if you’re looking for an experienced orthopedic surgeon, make sure to check out our physician network.

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