When the glenoid labrum is torn, it is called a labral tear. Labral tears are classified by the location of the tear in relation to the glenoid. A SLAP tear is when the glenoid labrum is separated at the tendon of the biceps muscle from front to back. The acronym stands for Superior Labral tear Anterior to Posterior. A SLAP tear occurs frequently in slip and fall accidents when the person falls on an outstretched arm and in car accidents when the arm is outstretched to brace against impact.
A SLAP tear can be difficult to diagnose. The best way to confirm a SLAP tear is with an MRI contrast. There are some risks associated with the contrast injection (gadolinium), including allergic reaction, dizziness, shortness of breath, blood clots, and kidney damage. Because of the risks with the MRI contrast, many people let the doctor make the diagnosis at the time of surgery.
SLAP Tear Treatment
Surgery is almost always necessary to recover from a severe SLAP tear injury. The surgery options are:
- open incision, where it affords the surgeon more visibility
- arthroscopic, where there is less chance of infection and recovery time is shorter
SLAP Tear Recovery
Whether you opt for open or arthroscopic surgery, physical therapy is mandatory. Physical therapy begins at about four weeks. Full recovery from a SLAP tear injury depends on the extent of damage, how it was treated, and how faithfully physical therapy was performed. It will usually be at least 3-4 months before your shoulder feels close to normal. It can take up to a year for your shoulder to be completely healed after surgery.
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