A SLAP tear is a type of injury to the labrum, which is the cartilage on the rim of the shoulder’s socket. The labrum increases the concavity of the glenoid (socket) and helps to stabilize the shoulder. SLAP stands for “superior labrum anterior and posterior.” The tear occurs in the top (superior) area of the labrum, where the biceps tendon is attached. By definition, the tear occurs anterior and posterior to the biceps tendon. The biceps tendon might be injured as well.
SLAP lesions can occur from an injury such as falling onto a hand, jamming injury to the shoulder, or a traction injury to the shoulder. SLAP tears can also occur as a result of a shoulder dislocation. Fraying and tearing of the superior labrum can also occur from the aging process.
Symptoms can include:
- shoulder popping, locking, or grinding
- pain with certain movements or positions
- pain when lifting things, especially over your head
- reduced and painful shoulder motion
- shoulder weakness
The diagnosis is usually made by history, examination, and MRI. Treatment can include activity modifications, medications, and physical therapy. For those with chronic symptoms affecting function and quality of life, surgery can be considered. The surgery consists of an arthroscopy with repair or debridement. If the biceps tendon is involved, detachment of the biceps and reattachment on the humerus is often performed.
Watch a video of a SLAP repair
In some patients, a SLAP lesion can lead to cyst formation along the top of the glenoid, which can cause pain and weakness if it compresses on a nerve. Cyst decompression and debridement, along with labral repair is often performed.
Watch a video of a SLAP repair and cyst decompression