What is labrum repair?

Labrum repair is surgery that treats a torn labrum. Labral tears often result from acute injuries, overuse injuries, and joint dislocations. Labrum repair relieves symptoms and restores joint stability, strength, and range of motion.

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds a joint such as the hip – acetabular labrum – or shoulder – glenoid labrum. It forms a strong rim or cuff around the socket of ball and socket joints. This rim deepens the socket and provides stability to the joint. The labrum also serves as an attachment point for ligaments and tendons. 

Injuries to the labrum can cause deep joint pain, joint looseness and instability, and changes in range of motion. Popping, clicking, catching or locking of the joint can also occur.

Labrum repair is major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having labrum repair. 

Why is labrum repair performed? 

Your doctor may recommend labrum repair to treat a torn labrum. Your doctor may only consider labrum repair if other treatments have failed to relieve your symptoms. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion.

Conditions that cause labral tears include:   

  • Acute injuries, including falling, forceful pulling on the joint, and trauma from motor vehicle accidents
  • Joint dislocations due to sports-related injuries or other joint trauma
  • Joint impingements due to bone spurs, calcified ligaments, rotator cuff tears, or childhood joint deformity 
  • Overuse injuries, including repetitive overhead arm movements or pivoting hip movements

Who performs labrum repair?

Orthopedic surgeons perform labrum repairs. Orthopedic surgeons are specially trained to treat problems of the bones and joints. They perform surgery and prescribe other treatments.

How is labrum repair performed?

Your labrum repair will be performed in a hospital or outpatient surgery setting. The procedure will vary depending on the type and extent of the tear and whether any tendons or ligaments are involved. 

Surgical approaches to labrum repair

Your surgeon will perform your labrum repair using one of the following approaches:

  • Minimally invasive surgery involves inserting special instruments and an arthroscope through at least two small incisions in the joint. The arthroscope is a thin, lighted instrument with a small camera. The camera transmits pictures of the inside of your joint to a video screen. Your surgeon sees the inside of your joint on the screen while performing surgery. Your surgeon will examine and repair the labral tear as needed. Minimally invasive surgery generally involves a faster recovery and less pain than open surgery. This is because it causes less trauma to tissues. Your doctor will make small incisions instead of a larger one used in open surgery. Surgical tools are threaded around muscles and tissues instead of cutting through or displacing them as in open surgery. 
  • Open surgery involves making a large incision in the front of your shoulder or hip. Open surgery allows your doctor to directly see and access the surgical area. Open surgery generally involves a longer recovery and more pain than minimally invasive surgery. Open surgery requires a larger incision and more cutting and displacement of muscle and other tissues than minimally invasive surgery. Despite this, open surgery may be a safer or more effective method for certain patients.

Your surgeon will advise you on which procedure is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different labrum repair procedures and ask why your surgeon will use a particular type for you.

Types of anesthesia 

Your surgeon will perform your labrum repair using either general anesthesia or regional anesthesia.  

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the surgery and do not feel any pain. You may also have a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion is an injection or continuous drip of a liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery. 
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb a large area of the body. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.