SLAP Lesion

A superior labral anterior and posterior lesion, commonly known as a SLAP lesion, is an injury to the labrum, the rim of cartilage that surrounds shoulder joint. The labrum forms a cup for the arm bone to move within, increasing shoulder stability. Injury to the labrum is often caused by a repetitive motion that pulls on the biceps tendon, or an acute type of trauma such as a shoulder dislocation or a fall with the arm stretched out. In individuals over the age of 40, a SLAP lesion may be caused by the wear and tear in the superior labrum that occurs over time, as a result of the aging process.

Symptoms of a SLAP Lesion

Patients with a SLAP lesion may experience shoulder pain with movement as well as the following symptoms:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Frequent shoulder dislocation
  • A catching or clicking sensation in the shoulder

Individuals may also experience decreased strength in the shoulder when they have a SLAP lesion.

Diagnosis of a SLAP Lesion

SLAP lesions are typically diagnosed after a medical history is taken and a physical examination is performed. A doctor may test the strength and range of motion of the shoulder by moving the arm in different directions. Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI scans may also be necessary to view any damage to the shoulder and the surrounding areas.

Treatment of a SLAP Lesion

Treatment for a SLAP lesion may vary depending on the severity of the condition. SLAP lesions that cause only mild pain and discomfort may be treated with conservative measures such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy. For those SLAP lesions that cause more severe pain, surgery is usually the most effective course of treatment. Surgery to repair a SLAP lesion is usually performed arthroscopically. Depending on the injury, there are a number of ways to repair the damage to the labrum. The technique used may not be determined until the tear is visible to the surgeon and the repair procedure may include:

  • Debridement of fraying tissue to prevent a tear
  • Securing the loose labrum to the cup of the joint
  • Repair or removing the torn labrum tissue
  • Removing the labral tear and repairing the biceps tendon

After surgery, a sling may be used to keep the arm stable while the labrum heals. A physical therapy program begins after healing, and full recovery after SLAP lesion repair may take several months.

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