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Sports Medicine

Slap Tear

05/17/2010

Question:

My doctor thinks I have a slap tear in my left shoulder and has me scheduled for an MRI Arthogram. I have a problem with not asking questions while at the office and have lots when I leave.

The main question now is what exactly is an MRI Arthogram and what can I expect that is different than a standard MRI? I know dye is injected. Is this painful? The hospital I’m having this done at requires I have a driver with me. Thanks

Answer:

An MR arthrogram is an MRI scan performed usually both before as well as after contrast - or "dye" - is injected into the joint being imaged. Compared to a standard MRI scan, an MR arthrogram is significantly more accurate in detecting (that is, less likely to miss) a SLAP tear.  

A SLAP tear is an abbreviation for "Superior Labrum Anterior-Posterior. The labrum is a cartilaginous lip attached to the rim of the bony socket of the shoulder joint which deepens it and thereby helps stabilize this ball-and-socket joint... in this case, the tear extends both towards the front or anterior, as well as towards the back or posterior, sides of the shoulder joint.  

Before undergoing a medical procedure, particularly an invasive procedure (although the risk for an MR arthrogram is low), it is important to have "informed consent" which includes discussion of what the procedure entails, along with its risks and benefits. Since you have a number of questions about this procedure, please consider writing these down and getting answers satisfactory and understandable to you/. Ask your physician and perhaps the MRI facility, to enable you to truly make an informed choice about undergoing this diagnostic procedure.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University