Is Slap Tear Surgery Worth It?

Many people visit an orthopedic surgeon and are told they have a SLAP or labral tear. They get treatment advice from the doctor but go home feeling unsure about what to do. They often wonder, “Is slap tear surgery worth it?” so they can go for it. Let’s find out:

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What Is SLAP Tear Surgery?

SLAP tear surgery, often called arthroscopic SLAP tear surgery, fixes damaged shoulder cartilage called a SLAP tear. It stands for Superior Labrum, Anterior to Posterior.

The “L” in SLAP stands for the labrum in your shoulder. The labrum cushions the top part of your upper arm bone (humerus) and helps it stay in place in the shoulder socket. It’s also where your shoulder blade socket connects to one of your bicep tendons.

The “S” in SLAP refers to the top part of the labrum. When this area tears, your upper arm bone loses its cushion, and your bicep tendon loses its connection to the shoulder blade socket. This causes shoulder pain and instability.

What Happens During SLAP Tear Surgery?

  • Surgeons make a small cut in your shoulder to insert a tiny camera called an arthroscope. This camera lets them see the torn labrum and the shoulder socket area.
  • Once they find the tear, they assess the damage. If they decide to fix it, they use tools to prepare the torn section for reattachment.
  • Next, they drill a small hole in your shoulder socket for an anchor suture.
  • Finally, they stitch your labrum to the anchor suture so it lies flat against the shoulder socket.

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SLAP Tear Surgery Success Rate

The average success rate of SLAP tear surgeries is around 70%. However, the return to sports is lower, especially for athletes who use overhead motions, like baseball players. One study found that 63% of overhead athletes returned to their sport after SLAP repair, but for baseball players, the rate was between 22% and 64%.

The SLAP tear surgery is generally successful in terms of patient satisfaction and daily activities. The success rate for returning to high-level overhead sports is lower, particularly for baseball players.

SLAP Tear Surgery Recovery

Your recovery time will depend on how bad and where the tear is. Usually, it takes 4 to 6 weeks for the labrum to reattach to the bone and another 4 to 6 weeks to regain strength. It’s important to be patient during this time and avoid re-injuring the labrum while it heals.

Your doctor will explain what to expect with your specific injury. They will also explain which movements to avoid during recovery. If you play sports, it’s important to let your body fully recover before getting back in the game.

Contact sports like wrestling and football have a higher risk of re-injuring the labrum. We recommend that you allow proper healing despite your eagerness to return, as it will prevent future injuries. Once your shoulder is fully strong and functional again, you can return to your sport at the same intensity.

Most patients fully recover with few or no limitations after surgery. Physical therapy will help you regain strength safely and support the healing process.

Wrapping Up

If you have been suffering from a labrum tear and wondering, “Is slap tear surgery worth it?” We recommend that you leave it to your orthopedic surgeon to decide. They can present the best treatment options to you.

Visit Dr. Cusick at Michael C. Cusick, M.D. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializes in treating shoulder injuries. Call us at (713) 794-3599 to book an appointment.

We Care For Patients Experiencing

Patient Reviews

If this surgery is a little frightening, I understand. I interviewed doctors until I was satisfied that the one I chose was right for me. The pain and restriction of movement in my left shoulder was debilitating. Dr. Michael Cusick is totally committed to his trade. Complete total reverse shoulder replacement.

Kyle Powell

Don't get me wrong there was hiccups and waiting to have surgery seemed like forever but Dr. Cusick, his office staff and the hospital staff especially has been amazing. They went above and beyond to get my surgery approved so we wouldn't have to put it off longer. Dr. Cusick keeps a positive outlook even at times...

Kathy Zenker

Excellent surgeon. Great bedside manner. Had difficulty getting insurance paperwork filled out by office staff. Dr Cusick is awesome.

Gary Sevy


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