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Labral and SLAP Tear Treatment in Kirkland, WA

A SLAP tear is an acronym describing a labral tear or lesion of cartilage in the inner portion of the shoulder joint. It means Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior. The labrum is an integral part of the shoulder and a tear affects your full range of motion, especially overhead motion, which can lead to significant pain and limited movement. Dr. Fuchs is a fellowship board-certified orthopedic surgeon that specializes in diagnosing and treating hip injuries. If you are experiencing symptoms of a labral or SLAP tear, call (425) 823-4000 to schedule an appointment at our office in Kirkland, WA today!

What is the Labrum?

The labrum is a rim of specialized cartilage tissue surrounding the outer edge of the socket of the shoulder joint. The labrum helps stabilize the joint to keep the ball inside the socket, and also deepens the socket, and makes it more concave.

shoulder-labral-fig1What’s the Difference Between a Labral and SLAP Tear?

The labrum can be torn anywhere around the rim, from an injury or shoulder dislocation. It can also tear because of repetitive wear and tear, such as overuse that can occur in throwing athletes. It can also tear as a result of degenerative disease such as arthritis.

The biceps tendon passes from the arm into the shoulder joint where it attaches to the labrum. SLAP tears stand for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior—technical terms describing the front to back location of this tear. SLAP tears can be a source of shoulder pain, commonly in overhead throwing athletes or weightlifters.

What Causes a SLAP Tear?

A SLAP tear can occur over time due to age, sudden trauma, or certain repetitive motions. Similar to other kinds of shoulder injuries, it can also happen in a car accident, if you fall on an outstretched arm, a dislocation, or forceful movement of the arm above shoulder level.  If a tear occurs, it is painful and obstructs movement of the shoulder joint.

Types of SLAP Tears

Type 1 SLAP Tear

This type of tear describes fraying at the top of the cartilage, but leaves the labrum attached to the glenoid. It usually occurs as one ages and is found frequently in middle aged and older adults.

Sometimes there may be little to no symptoms experienced by the patient from a type 1 SLAP tear. This injury can normally be treated without surgery, and can be managed using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and perhaps physical therapy.

Type 2 SLAP Tear

This is the most common type of tear to the shoulder labrum. In this situation, the labrum and bicep tendon do detach from the glenoid and result in a dislocated shoulder. This can occur either to the anterior or posterior sides.

In most cases, Type 2 is treated by Dr. Fuchs with arthroscopic surgery.

Type 3 SLAP Tear

With a type 3 SLAP tear, the labrum collapses into the shoulder joint, while the bicep tendon remains in place. This particular injury is also commonly referred to as a bucket-handle tear due to the appearance of the labrum once it has detached and begun to droop.

Treatment options for a type 3 SLAP tear include arthroscopic surgery to remove the collapsed segment and repair any other unstable portions of the shoulder.

Type 4 SLAP Tear

Type 4 is similar to the above type 3, except that the collapsed labrum has not fully detached. Instead, the labrum hangs down and extends into the bicep tendon, which often causes symptoms of popping or locking within the shoulder joint.

Treatment can vary depending on how extensive the damage to the bicep tendon is, as the tendon may require repair in addition to the torn labrum.

Labral and SLAP Tear Treatment in Kirkland

Typical nonsurgical treatment for labral tears involves activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. An arthroscopic repair may be performed by Dr. Fuchs if the nonsurgical treatments fail. The repair of the labrum can usually lead to pain relief and restoration of strength and function for patients residing in the Seattle metro area.

Schedule an Appointment

For more information or to discover the best Labral and SLAP tear treatment option for you, call (425) 823-4000 to schedule an appointment at our office in Kirkland, WA today!

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