Repairing a SLAP tear without surgery

Danielle.Steilen.ProlotherapistDanielle R. Steilen-Matias, MMS, PA-C

If you are reading this article you are likely someone very involved in sports or you have a physically demanding job. You may be a baseball pitcher or the parent of one doing your research looking for that non-surgical alternative that will save next season for your son. You may be doing research for your daughter to keep her on the softball diamond. You may be a landscaper, tradesman or construction worker who does a lot of overhead work looking for the same thing, saving a season of work by getting your shoulder non-surgically repaired.

You have probably already been to a doctor for your SLAP tear

Whatever the reason, you have a shoulder problem.

Later in this article we will discuss how to repair a SLAP lesion without surgery.

I went to the doctor. I was told SLAP tear surgery is the only way to recover


The SLAP tear surgical options examined and question

An October 2018 study is telling patients this, it relates to baseball pitchers but may as well relate to anyone with a SLAP lesion or tear.

Why your SLAP tear conservative treatment failed

So if you went to a doctor with a problem of your shoulder.

Physical therapy leads to SLAP surgery in 1/3rd of patients

In August 2018, doctors at Tulane University published these findings in The open orthopaedics journal.

The management of SLAP lesions can be divided into 4 broad categories:

It is interesting to note the first mention of using Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) are in the instance of athletes. We have found PRP injections to be an effective treatment when combined with H3 Prolotherapy. This is explained below.

The failure of SLAP lesion or SLAP tear surgery and repeated surgeries to fix what the first surgery could not

Research from New York University says:

In a combined study from University of Minnesota and German researchers, doctors found that if conservative treatment fails, successful arthroscopic repair of symptomatic SLAP lesions could be achieved. However what was the measurement of success? If it was return to sport, or function in older patients, it was not that successful.

These doctors also looked at the problem of “normal variations and degenerative changes” in the SLAP complex that needs to be distinguished from “true”SLAP lesions in order to improve results and avoid overtreatment.” Possibly avoid a surgery based on the wrong recommendation.[3

Surgery as diagnostic tool causes concern

In a recent review of SLAP lesion repair surgeries, one author, Stephen C. Weber, MD, noted the rise in both the number of repair surgeries and complications associated with them. This study looked at the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery database for SLAP lesion repairs.

The author expressed concern over the number of young orthopedic surgeons performing SLAP lesion repairs and also the number of middle-aged and elderly patients receiving them given the complications associated.

He concluded that there should be a greater focus on educating young orthopedic surgeons so that they can recognize and treat SLAP lesions appropriately with the hopes of decreasing the number of surgical repairs performed.(4)

Four years later researchers suggest the best diagnostic tool is still surgery and doing some repair while you are in there.

“36.8% of these surgeries were considered a “failure” and 28% had to be redone”

“Arthroscopic revision type II SLAP repairs yield worse results than primary repairs as reported in the literature, with workers’ compensation patients and overhead athletes doing especially worse.”

The above recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine analyzed the post-surgical outcomes of athletes with SLAP lesions (superior labrum anterior to posterior tears).[7

One hundred seventy-nine military athletes were used in the study, all of which underwent surgery to fix an existing SLAP lesion. Out of all the operations, 36.8% of these surgeries were considered a “failure” and 28% had to be redone. That means that 66 individuals had a failed surgery and 51 had to go back into the operating room.

At two to five year follow-ups, a significant amount of these athletes still had decreased range of motion in the affected shoulder. Researchers concluded that an age greater than 36 years old was the factor that was associated with an increased chance of surgery failure. Other studies have shown similar statistics with many participants unable to ever return to their previous pre-surgery activity level.

The major long-term functional problem of surgical treatment for shoulder labrum tears is that the surgery usually confined itself to stapling or suturing the labrum itself and did not address damage occurring in the whole shoulder.

Treating the Glenoid Labrum or SLAP tear with sutures and staples would indicate the pain is coming from an isolated tissue damage. It is thought by keeping the humeral head in the socket, chronic instability will go away. In reality, this is not the case. Any type of injury affects all the structures of the joint. In the patients we see at Caring Medical, this is not the case. People with shoulder labrum problems have whole shoulder joint instability, they have damage to the shoulder ligaments front and back, they have damage to the rotator cuff tendons and damage to the biceps tendon that surgery cannot address.

Back to Baseball the SLAP lesions in the Pitcher

Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital published these findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine:

The published return-to-play (RTP) rates for athletes who have undergone surgical repair of superior labrum anterior-posterior (SLAP) tears vary widely and are generally accepted to be lower in the group of competitive throwers (baseball pitchers). Therefore the effectiveness of nonsurgical treatment should be explored.

The Houston group looked at 119 patients in a single professional baseball organization with persistent shoulder pain that limited the ability to compete.

Those who failed 2 cycles of nonsurgical treatment were treated surgically.

Success was defined by 2 different standards:

(1) return-to-play (RTP), success was measured in accordance with previous study findings; and
(2) a more stringent standard of return to the same level/quality of professional competition (level A baseball, Double A baseball, Triple A baseball etc.) with the incorporation of a return to preinjury individual performance statistics (earned run average, walks plus hits per inning pitched), termed “return to prior performance” (RPP).

CONCLUSION:

In a study from late 2016, doctors at Wayne State University School of Medicine published these findings:

However, the overall rate of return to prior performance, including those unable to return-to-play rate, was 54.2%. A little more than half had a successful surgery and return to prior performance. However  performance analysis of the return-to-play group revealed a statistically significant decrease in innings pitched for Major League pitchers throwing a mean 101.8 innings before injury and 65.53 innings after injury.(9)

Non-surgical regenerative medicine injection therapy for SLAP lesions

People with SLAP tears who call or email us, do so because they want to avoid surgery. Perhaps it is the athlete who cannot afford to miss a High School or Collegiate season or it is a house painter or the tree trimmer or the carpenter who cannot afford extended time away from his/her business.

The treatments we offer are

As explained in the video above and presented in more detail here.

After treatment:

We will often see patients who went to their orthopedic surgeon and were able to receive a PRP injection into the shoulder. In our experience, we have found that you cannot simply offer a single platelet-rich plasma injection inside the joint and expect superior results. When Prolotherapy/PRP injections are offered here, as just mentioned, a patient may expect 30 injections and a comprehensive treatment.

If you have questions and would like to discuss your shoulder pain issues with our staff you get get help and information from our Caring Medical staff.

Prolotherapy Specialists

 

1 Hashiguchi H, Iwashita S, Yoneda M, Takai S. Factors influencing outcomes of nonsurgical treatment for baseball players with SLAP lesion. Asia-Pacific Journal of Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation and Technology. 2018;14:6-9. doi:10.1016/j.asmart.2018.08.001. [Google Scholar]

2 Mollon B, Mahure SA, Ensor KL, Zuckerman JD, Kwon YW, Rokito AS. Subsequent Shoulder Surgery After Isolated Arthroscopic SLAP Repair. Arthroscopy. 2016 Oct;32(10):1954-1962.e1.  [Google Scholar]

Brockmeyer M, Tompkins M, Kohn DM, Lorbach O. SLAP lesions: a treatment algorithm. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2016 Jan 27. [Google Scholar]

4 Weber, SC, et al. Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior Lesions of the Shoulder: Incidence Rates, Complications, and Outcomes as Reported by American Board of Orthopedic Surgery Part II Candidates. Am J Sports Med. 2012 May 24. [AAOS]

5 Saqib R, Harris J, Funk L. Comparison of magnetic resonance arthrography with arthroscopy for imaging of shoulder injuries: retrospective study. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2017 Apr;99(4):271-274. doi: 10.1308/rcsann.2016.0249.  [Google Scholar]

6. Yıldız F, Bilsel K, Pulatkan A, Uzer G, Aralaşmak A, Atay M. Reliability of magnetic resonance imaging versus arthroscopy for the diagnosis and classification of superior glenoid labrum anterior to posterior lesions. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2017 Feb;137(2):241-247. [Google Scholar]

7. Park S, Glousman RE. Outcomes of revision arthroscopic type II superior labral anterior posterior repairs. The American journal of sports medicine. 2011 Jun;39(6):1290-4. [Google Scholar]

8
Fedoriw WW, Ramkumar P, McCulloch PC, Lintner DM. Return to play after treatment of superior labral tears in professional baseball players. Am J Sports Med. 2014 May;42(5):1155-60. [Google Scholar]

9 Smith R, Lombardo DJ, Petersen-Fitts GR, et al. Return to Play and Prior Performance in Major League Baseball Pitchers After Repair of Superior Labral Anterior-Posterior Tears. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.  2016;4(12):2325967116675822. [Pubmed]

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