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SLAP Tears

What is a SLAP tear?

A SLAP tear, or Superior Labral Tear from Anterior to Posterior, is a specific type of injury to the labrum of the shoulder joint. The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint, providing stability and cushioning. A SLAP tear occurs at the top (superior) part of the labrum, extending from the front (anterior) to the back (posterior) of the shoulder.

What are the causes of SLAP tears?

SLAP tears can result from acute trauma, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm or a direct blow to the shoulder. Additionally, repetitive overhead activities, such as throwing or weightlifting, can gradually weaken the labrum over time and predispose it to tears. Degenerative changes associated with aging can also contribute to the development of SLAP tears.

What are the symptoms of SLAP tears?

The symptoms of a SLAP tear can vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  1. Pain or discomfort in the shoulder, particularly with overhead movements or lifting objects.
  2. A popping, clicking, or catching sensation in the shoulder joint.
  3. Shoulder instability or a feeling of “looseness” in the joint.
  4. Decreased range of motion, especially with activities requiring rotation of the shoulder.
  5. Weakness or loss of strength in the affected arm.

How are SLAP tears diagnosed?

Dr. Shane J. Nho diagnoses SLAP tears through a comprehensive evaluation, including a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, imaging studies, and diagnostic arthroscopy. Proper diagnosis is crucial for determining the underlying cause of shoulder pain and guiding appropriate treatment strategies to alleviate symptoms and improve joint function. Diagnostic tools may include:

Medical History

Reviewing the patient’s history for any shoulder injuries, trauma, or repetitive activities that may have contributed to the tear.

Physical Examination

A thorough examination of the shoulder joint to assess range of motion, stability, and signs of labral injury.

Imaging Studies

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Magnetic Resonance Arthrogram (MRA) may be used to visualize the labrum and identify the presence of a tear.

  • X-rays: X-rays provide detailed images of the bones and can help identify fractures, dislocations, or bony abnormalities such as shoulder arthritis or bone spurs.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI is particularly useful for evaluating soft tissue structures such as the labrum, ligaments, and tendons. It can help identify SLAP tears, rotator cuff injuries, or other structural abnormalities within the shoulder joint.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: CT scans may be used to provide more detailed images of bony structures and can be helpful in assessing complex fractures or bony abnormalities. While not as commonly used as MRI for SLAP tears, CT scans may offer additional information in certain cases, such as evaluating bone quality or identifying calcifications.

Diagnostic Arthroscopy

In some cases, Dr. Shane J. Nho may perform an arthroscopic procedure to directly visualize the inside of the shoulder joint and confirm the diagnosis of a SLAP tear.

At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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