Labral Tear Shoulder Surgery

What is Labral Repair Surgery?

With advances in technology over the last decade, most shoulder labral tears can be repaired arthroscopically, which means that a video camera and small specialized tools are inserted through a series of small incisions to complete the repair. The portion of the labrum that is torn away is reattached to the glenoid, which helps to restore the normal stability of the shoulder joint.

In order to reattach the labrum cartilage to the bone, small holes are drilled in the glenoid bone and tiny anchors with sutures attached to them are embedded in the holes in the bone. The surgeon loops the suture through the detached labrum and pulls the fibrous cartilage back down to the bone. A series of specialized knots are tied in the suture to hold the labrum in place next to the bone. This procedure is repeated with as many anchors as needed to temporarily secure the labrum to the glenoid and over a few months, scar tissue will develop over the labral attachments on the glenoid to make the reattachment permanent. If the surgeon finds that the joint capsule is abnormally loose, sutures may be placed to tighten the capsule. This can help stabilize the shoulder joint and is referred to as a capsulorrhaphy. Patients must wear a sling and avoid moving their arm at the shoulder joint for four to six weeks to protect the repair and allow the labrum time to heal; otherwise, the repair may fail.

What is Torn Labrum Shoulder Surgery?

There are certain labral tears that cannot be successfully repaired through the arthroscope so a larger incision is made to entirely expose the labrum and the glenoid. The labrum is reattached to the glenoid in the same way as described above by using anchors and suture. Immobilization, work restrictions, and physical therapy courses are the same whether the repair is done open or arthroscopically.

What is the Rehabilitation after Labral Repair Surgery?

The surgery is followed by a course of formal physical therapy that is tailored to each patient’s specific needs and therapy is usually needed for three to six months after surgery to regain strength and range of motion. Typically, the procedure is done on an outpatient basis and most patients are able to return to sedentary work and modified daily activities within a few weeks. Patients that have jobs involving manual labor will likely be out of work or on light duty until three months post-operatively or longer.