Clinical testing for tears of the glenoid labrum

Arthroscopy. 2003 May-Jun;19(5):517-23. doi: 10.1053/jars.2003.50104.


Purpose: With the increasing use of shoulder arthroscopy, diagnosis of glenoid labral lesions has become increasingly common. However, a physical examination maneuver that would allow a definitive clinical diagnosis of a glenoid labral tear, and more specifically a SLAP lesion, has been elusive. This study correlated the results of commonly used examination maneuvers with findings at shoulder arthroscopy. The working hypothesis was that 7 commonly used clinical tests, alone or in logical combinations, would provide diagnoses with reliability greater than the accepted standards for magnetic resonance imaging arthrography; i.e., greater than 95% sensitivity and specificity.

Type of study: Consecutive sample, sensitivity-specificity study.

Methods: Sixty shoulders undergoing arthroscopy for a variety of pathologies were examined before surgery. All subjects submitted to the Speed test, an anterior apprehension maneuver, Yergason test, O'Brien test, Jobe relocation test, the crank test, and a test for tenderness of the bicipital groove. The examination results were compared with surgical findings and analyzed for sensitivity and specificity in the diagnosis of SLAP lesions and other glenoid labral tears.

Results: The results of the O'Brien test (63% sensitive, 73% specific) and Jobe relocation test (44% sensitive, 87% specific) were statistically correlated with presence of a tear in the labrum and the apprehension test approached statistical significance. Performing all 3 tests and accepting a positive result for any of them increased the statistical value, although the sensitivity and specificity were still disappointingly low (72% and 73%, respectively). The other 4 tests were not found to be useful for labral tears, and none of the tests or combinations were statistically valid for specific detection of a SLAP lesion.

Conclusions: Clinical testing is useful in strengthening a diagnosis of a glenoid labral lesion, but the sensitivity and specificity are relatively low. Thus a decision to proceed with surgery should not be based on clinical examination alone.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint / pathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis / diagnosis
  • Arthroscopy*
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scapula*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis