SLAP repair

SLAP repair is a surgical procedure used to correct a SLAP tear, which is an injury to the labrum in the shoulder joint. The term SLAP stands for superior labrum from anterior to posterior. The labrum is the perimeter cuff of fibrocartilage in the shoulder joint which forms a seal for the end of the humerus (arm) bone. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the bicep muscle tendon connects to the labrum in the shoulder socket. A SLAP repair is used for treatment when the labrum attachment to the muscle is unstable.

About the surgery

SLAP repair is performed with shoulder arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure used to repair various painful conditions of the shoulder such as rotator cuff tendon tears, torn ligaments and bone spurs. An arthroscope is a small fiber optic tube about the diameter of a pencil, containing a system of lenses, a light and a small video camera. The camera sends real-time images to a video monitor next to the operating table, thus allowing the surgeon to see more detail than is seen with a larger incision (open surgery) and the naked eye.

The arthroscope is inserted into the shoulder joint to inspect for a SLAP tear. Once the tear is found, the surgeon removes any excess tissue and drills a small hole in the bone where the labrum has torn away. An anchor attached to a strong suture is placed in the hole. One or more anchors may be used, depending on the extent of the injury. The sutures are then tied around the torn labrum to reattach it to the bone in its proper position. Arthroscopic SLAP repair surgery restores shoulder function.  

Your surgeon will most likely prescribe a sling for you to wear during the several weeks of recovery. A sling helps support your arm and shoulder by decreasing movement and pressure. During rehabilitation, you will also learn light exercises for your shoulder to help with any stiffness. Full recovery after SLAP repair surgery usually takes four to six months.

Animated video: SLAP lesion repair

Advances in shoulder arthroscopy

Since the 1970s, orthopaedic surgeons have been performing arthroscopic surgery for a wide spectrum of painful shoulder problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), shoulder arthroscopy has made diagnosis, treatment and recovery from surgery easier and faster than was once thought possible. Every year, new instruments and techniques are developed that fine-tune the surgery even more.

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