SLAP Repair Explained

A SLAP repair is a surgical procedure that can treat injuries within the deep interior of the shoulder joint. This article will explore what a SLAP repair involves and when it might be a necessary treatment.


Overview of a SLAP repair

The shoulder joint is a complex joint involving the upper arm bone, the shoulder blade, and the collarbone. It is a ball-and-socket joint, meaning the upper arm bone rests in the socket of the shoulder blade. To deepen the joint and offer additional stability, the shoulder blade socket is lined with a thick band of cartilage called the labrum.

Sometimes, the labrum can tear as the result of an accident or injury. SLAP stands for superior labrum anterior and posterior and is the term used to describe the area in the shoulder joint where the bicep tendon connects to the labrum. A SLAP tear occurs when the labrum tears at this intersection with the bicep tendon.

A SLAP repair is typically an arthroscopic surgical procedure that involves inspecting the tear and then either removing the torn area or reattaching it with sutures. The exact nature of the repair depends on the location and severity of the SLAP tear.

Causes of a SLAP tear

SLAP tears can occur for a variety of reasons, including

  • Age-related wear-and-tear that weakens the labrum tissue
  • Traumatic injury that involves sudden pressure in the shoulder joint, like a shoulder dislocation
  • Repetitive stress to the shoulder

For that reason, older adults have a higher risk of SLAP tears as a result of wear-and-tear in the shoulder joint. Those who play sports that involve frequent and forceful overhead movements, like swimming and throwing, are also more likely to suffer a SLAP tear because of the repetitive strain on their shoulder joints.


Symptoms of a SLAP tear

SLAP tears can result in the following symptoms:

  • Aching pain in the shoulder joint
  • Reduced range of motion in the shoulder
  • Catching or locking sensation in the shoulder joint
  • Difficulty with normal shoulder movements (reduced strength)

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention to avoid further injury.


Treatment for SLAP tears: SLAP repair

SLAP tears can often be treated conservatively without surgery. These treatments include

  • Resting the affected shoulder (avoiding activity that further strains the tear)
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation in the joint
  • Trying physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the affected shoulder to restore your range of motion

When the labrum does not respond well to these treatments, however, surgery may be necessary to repair the SLAP tear. An orthopaedic surgeon will typically perform the surgery arthroscopically, meaning they will make a small incision and insert a camera into the joint to first inspect the injury.

Based on the inspection, the surgeon will then use narrow instruments to repair the tear in a minimally invasive way. Depending on the severity of the tear, the surgeon may remove the torn part of the labrum or reattach it to the bone of the shoulder socket with sutures that stabilize it.

An orthopaedic specialist will determine the exact course of treatment depending on the individual case.


SLAP repair at OAR

SLAP tears can be frustrating and can get in the way of your favorite activities. At OAR, our team of orthopaedic specialists are ready to help you start feeling like yourself again. We are experienced with a range of innovative treatments that can help you restore your range of motion and do the things you love.

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.

If you’re suffering from persistent shoulder pain,

Contact us today!