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Everything you need to know about a SLAP repair

SLAP repair, short for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior repair, is a surgical procedure commonly performed to address a specific type of shoulder injury known as a SLAP tear. This injury affects the labrum, which is a ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket that helps stabilize the joint. A SLAP tear occurs at the top (superior) portion of the labrum, where the biceps tendon attaches to the shoulder.

During a SLAP repair surgery, the surgeon reattaches the torn labrum to the shoulder socket using sutures or anchors, restoring stability and function to the shoulder joint. This procedure is often recommended for individuals who experience persistent shoulder pain, weakness, or instability, particularly athletes or individuals with repetitive overhead arm movements. Rehabilitation following SLAP repair typically involves a structured program of physical therapy to regain strength, mobility, and function in the shoulder.

Symptoms of a SLAP injury

  • Shoulder pain, especially with overhead movements or activities

  • A sensation of catching, locking, or popping in the shoulder joint

  • Decreased range of motion in the shoulder, particularly with overhead movements

  • Weakness or instability in the shoulder joint

  • Difficulty performing activities that require reaching or lifting

  • Pain or discomfort during activities such as throwing, lifting weights, or performing overhead sports movements

  • A feeling of shoulder stiffness or tightness

  • Pain or discomfort when sleeping on the affected shoulder


Effective treatments for a SLAP repair

  • Conservative management:

    • Physical therapy: A structured program of exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint and improve stability.

    • Activity modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as overhead movements or heavy lifting.

    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medications to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Surgical intervention:

    • Arthroscopic SLAP repair: A minimally invasive surgical procedure where the torn labrum is reattached to the shoulder socket using sutures or anchors.

    • Biceps tenodesis: In cases where the biceps tendon is involved, it may be reattached to a different location on the humerus bone to relieve symptoms.

    • Debridement: Removal of damaged tissue from the shoulder joint if the tear is not amenable to repair.


What are the risks of a surgical SLAP repair?

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Nerve or blood vessel injury

  • Anesthesia risks

  • Stiffness or loss of range of motion

  • Failed healing

  • Shoulder instability

  • Persistent pain

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