Biceps tenodesis and SLAP surgery
What is a biceps tenodesis?
A ‘tenodesis’ refers to a procedure of moving a tendon and attaching it to bone. It is often performed to treat biceps tendinopathy – which is inflammation, tearing and rupture of the biceps tendon in the shoulder. A biceps tenodesis is also indicated to help treat the pain associated with a SLAP tear. A SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior) is a tear of the labrum of the shoulder where the biceps tendon normally attaches. Read more about biceps tendinopathy and SLAP tears.
What’s involved in biceps tenodesis and SLAP surgery?
The surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic so you are asleep for the operation. A regional block is usually performed by our anaesthetist to give you good post-operative pain relief as well. A biceps tenodesis and SLAP surgery is a procedure performed via 3-4 keyhole incisions around the shoulder.
Through these keyhole incisions, an arthroscopic camera and instruments are used to access the shoulder joint and release the inflamed and damaged biceps tendon from the shoulder. The labrum can also be debrided and ‘cleaned up’. In some cases, it may require a repair involving the placement of surgical anchors into the rim of the shoulder.
A small incision is made in front of the armpit and the biceps tendon is retrieved out of the shoulder joint and the diseased portion is excised. The healthy tendon is then reattached to the armbone using a small metallic ‘button’.
As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of:
- Wound healing problems – very unlikely with keyhole incisions
- Cardiovascular risks – stroke, heart attack, blood clots
- Swelling of the operated limb – generally subsides within weeks
- Pain – discomfort is expected after an operation, however pain medications are used in a routine manner to relieve this post-operative discomfort
Specific risks of biceps tenodesis and SLAP surgery:
- Damage to nerves around the shoulder
- Fracture (very rare)
- Rupture or retear of the biceps tendon
- Change in appearance to the shape of the arm
What happens after the surgery?
Postoperative instructions and follow up
- Immediate post-op
After your operation you will be taken to the recovery room of the hospital, and allowed to have something to drink. When the team is happy the anaesthetic has worn off, you will be transferred to the day surgery area or to your inpatient room depending on whether you will be staying overnight. A sling / shoulder immobiliser would have been placed on your arm in the operating room, and should keep your arm comfortable and safe. If a nerve block has been performed by our anaesthetist, then your arm should feel comfortable but numb for up to 24-36 hours after the operation. When pins-and-needles are felt in the hand and arm then the block is starting to wear off, and your nursing staff will commence pain medication to keep you comfortable.
- Discharge from hospital
On discharge from hospital you will be given:
- Physiotherapy – instructions on exercises that should commence for the shoulder, elbow and wrist.
- Sling – instructions on the use of your sling. Typically after a biceps tenodesis, Dr Yu will keep you in a sling for most of the time for 4 weeks, protecting the shoulder and elbow.
- Dressings – please keep dressings dry and do not remove them.
- Follow up appointment time
- Follow up
A follow up appointment will have been made for you after the operation. This will typically be an appointment around the 2-3 weeks after the surgery to check the surgical incisions. If you have any concerns before this appointment, call Dr Yu’s clinic on (08) 7099 0188 to speak with us.
- Medication review – As part of your preoperative assessment, your current regular medications will be reviewed. This includes over-the-counter medications as well as supplements eg. Fish oil and glucosamine. You will be able to continue taking the majority of your regular medications, however some medications may be temporarily ceased. These are usually blood-thinning medicines (anti-coagulants) including (but not limited to) aspirin, warfarin, clopidogrel, apixaban. Diabetes medications including tablets and injections can usually be safely continued until the morning of the surgery. We will advise you when to stop taking these medications before the operation, and when to restart them after the operation.
- Smoking – Smoking greatly impairs the blood supply to healing tissues by constricting the blood vessels, as well as creating problems with anaesthesia. If ever there was a good time to quit smoking, it is before an operation and during the recovery period. You will be advised of options to help ceasing smoking during this period, and ideally beyond.
- Fasting – No solid food (including drinks containing milk) should be consumed within 6 hours before surgery. Clear fluids (such as cordial and water) may be consumed up to 3 hours before surgery, and then nothing should be taken from then (this includes chewing gum). An exception is made for regular oral medications, which can be taken with a small sip of water.
- Cardiovascular fitness – An operation most often requires general anaesthesia (meaning you are put to sleep and breathing is assisted). Dr Yu and his anaesthetic team endeavour to make your anaesthetic as safe as possible by ensuring your heart and lungs are in optimal health. This may mean a pre-anaesthetic review by our anaesthetist involving a cardiovascular assessment, with blood tests and heart tracings performed.
- Skin preparation – You should not shave or wax skin around the surgical area, as this can irritate the skin or cause superficial infections. Please advise us if you notice any skin lesions or abrasions around the operative area in the days before your surgery. Whilst waiting for your operation on the day of surgery, we will prepare the skin with antiseptic, and Dr Yu will mark the limb to be operated on.
- Illness / colds – Please advise us if you have a cold or flu-like symptoms, or urinary-tract infections. Your surgery may need to be postponed while you recover from these infections. This is to ensure your surgery is performed as safely as possible for you.
- Imaging – Please bring all relevant imaging with you to hospital (eg. X-rays / CT scans / MRI scans).
- Arrival to hospital – Please present to the hospital surgical admissions area at least 2 hours before your planned surgery, or as advised by the hospital admission staff. If you are planned for an overnight admission to hospital following the operation, please bring your regular medications with you.
Do you have a shoulder problem?
Contact our team to find out more.