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What Is Labral Debridement?

Labral debridement is a medical term used to describe a specific type of shoulder surgery. The cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket is called the labrum, and when this cartilage tears, labral debridement is often used to repair the damage. This minimally invasive procedure involves the use of small instruments to repair the damaged cartilage as well as surrounding tissues. After the initial healing process, physical therapy is necessary in order to regain full use of the affected shoulder. Any questions concerning the labral debridement procedure itself or physical limitations during the healing process should be discussed with the supervising physician.

Depending on the extent of the damage to the shoulder, the overall health of the patient, and the preferences of the attending physician, labral debridement surgery may be performed on either an outpatient or inpatient basis. A small catheter is inserted into a vein so that any necessary fluids or medications can be introduced directly into the body, and an oxygen mask will be placed over the nose and mouth. General anesthesia is typically used so that the patient is completely sedated and unable to move during the surgery.

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After the patient is sedated, a small incision is made near the shoulder joint. A small instrument known as an arthroscope is inserted into the shoulder so that the surgeon can clearly see the damaged cartilage. Additional instruments are then inserted through the incision so that the necessary repairs can be made. When the cartilage has been repaired, the instruments are removed from the shoulder and the incision is closed.

Before the patient leaves the hospital, he or she receives post-operative instructions, which include mobility restrictions and wound care advice. The shoulder must be immobilized for a few weeks following the procedure to allow for proper healing, and many doctors recommend the use of a sling. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications can be used as needed, and a follow-up appointment will be scheduled so the sutures can be removed.

Approximately six weeks after the labral debridement surgery, as long as the doctor feels that sufficient healing has taken place, the patient will be referred to a physical therapist. Gentle exercises and massage will be used to strengthen the shoulder, and additional instructions will be given concerning which exercises can be performed at home. It usually takes several months for the shoulder to completely heal after labral debridement, so activities will have to be limited until cleared by the doctor.

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