Adhesions are bands of scar-like tissue. Normally, internal tissues and organs have slippery surfaces so they can shift easily as the body moves. Adhesions cause tissues and organs to stick together. They might connect the loops of the intestines to each other, to nearby organs, or to the wall of the abdomen. They can pull sections of the intestines out of place. This may block food from passing through the intestine.
Adhesions can occur anywhere in the body. But they often form after surgery on the abdomen. Almost everyone who has surgery on the abdomen gets adhesions. Some adhesions don't cause any problems. But when they partly or completely block the intestines, they cause symptoms such as
- Severe abdominal pain or cramping
- An inability to pass gas
Adhesions can sometimes cause infertility in women by preventing fertilized eggs from reaching the uterus.
No tests are available to detect adhesions. Doctors usually find them during surgery to diagnose other problems.
Some adhesions go away by themselves. If they partly block your intestines, a diet low in fiber can allow food to move easily through the affected area. If you have a complete intestinal obstruction, it is life-threatening. You should get immediate medical attention and may need surgery.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Abdominal Adhesions (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Abdominal exploration - slideshow (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Hysterosalpingography (American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America) Also in Spanish
- Laparoscopic Surgery (American College of Gastroenterology)
- Lower GI Series (Barium Enema) (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in Spanish
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Prevention of postoperative adhesion reformation by intermittent intrauterine balloon therapy: a...
- Article: Resolution of adhesive small bowel obstruction with a protocol based on...
- Article: Arthroscopic Lysis of Adhesions With Manipulation Under Anesthesia Versus Manipulation Alone...
- Adhesions -- see more articles
- Labial Adhesions: A Guide for Parents (Children's Hospital Boston)
- Endometriosis (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)