6850 W. Centennial Drive, Tinley Park, IL 60477
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Specialties: Arthroscopic SLAP Repair Symptoms and Diagnosis

What does a labral tear feel like?

The main symptom caused by a labral tear is a sharp pop or catching sensation in the shoulder during certain shoulder movements. This may be followed by a vague aching for several hours. At other times, the tear may not cause any pain. Shoulder instability from a damaged labrum may cause the shoulder to feel loose, as though it slips with certain movements.

Diagnosis

What tests will my doctor run?

Your doctor may suspect a labral tear based on your medical history. You will be asked questions about your pain and past injuries to your shoulder that may suggest labral damage.

In the physical examination, there are several shoulder movements that can bring on the symptoms. You may feel a catching sensation as your arm is raised, and there may be pain when the arm is held overhead. If your arm is held in front of your body, with the palm of the hand facing downward, you may feel pain when your doctor tries to push down on your arm.

Labral tears are difficult to see, even in a (MRI) scan. An MRI scan is a special imaging test that uses magnetic waves to show the tissues of the shoulder in slices. The MRI scan shows soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments as well as bones.

Labral tears may be seen using computed tomography (CT) scan and a special dye. A CT scan is an older test that uses computer-enhanced X-rays to show slices of the shoulder. The soft tissues do not show up in a CT scan, but the special dye does. The dye shows the outline of the labrum. If there is a tear, the dye may leak into it and show up on the CT scan.

However, MRI and CT scans are not very accurate in detecting labral tears. Confirming the diagnosis of a labral tear can be extremely difficult. A surgeon may need to look into your shoulder using an arthroscope. The arthroscope is a small TV camera that is inserted into the shoulder joint through a very small incision. The surgeon can then see pictures of the joint on a TV screen. This allows the surgeon to look directly at the labrum to see if it is torn.

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Last Modified: June 24, 2014