A SLAP tear or lesion is an injury to the labrum of the shoulder, which is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint. SLAP stands for superior labral tear from anterior to posterior.
SLAP lesions are often repaired by an arthroscopic operation. The basic principle is to repair the torn labrum and hence the attachment of the long head of biceps tendon, which has become detached from the shoulder socket (glenoid). This is achieved using sutures and bone anchors, which are usually bioabsorbable.
In order to perform the surgery, the patient will general anaesthetic. The operation is generally performed as a day case or overnight stay if performed later in the day.
Approximately three small wounds (0.5cm) will be made about the shoulder in order to allow the arthroscope (camera) and other instruments into the shoulder.
In order to place the anchors, small holes will be drilled into the bone (2.8cm). The sutures are then passed through the torn labrum and then tied down, stabilising the tissue back to the bone.
In order for the labrum to heal, the arm will be immobilised in a sling for 2-3 weeks before shoulder range of movement is re-established. During the initial period many patients experience significant sleep disturbance and regular analgesia is likely to be required. It is not possible to drive during this phase.
A strengthening programme is subsequently employed, usually allowing light weights 3-6 weeks post surgery, depending on the magnitude of injury. Non-contact sports are normally able to resume 6-8 weeks post surgery, with contact sports 4-5 months post operation.