Abdominal Adhesions (Scar Tissue in the Abdomen)


Abdominal adhesions facts*

*Abdominal adhesions facts Medically Edited by: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

  • Abdominal adhesions are bands of scar tissue that form between the tissues and organs of the abdomen, which causes them to adhere to each other.
  • Symptoms caused by abdominal adhesions vary. However, most adhesions do not cause symptoms.
  • Typical symptoms caused by abdominal adhesions include abdominal discomfort around the abdominal button that is similar to cramps followed by flatulence. Symptoms can become severe with disability.

  • Abdominal surgery is the most common cause of abdominal adhesions. Other causes of abdominal adhesions include inflammation of the organ such as the gallbladder or appendicitis, peritonitis, foreign objects in the abdomen at the time of surgery, bleeding in the peritoneal cavity or inflammatory conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease. 
  • In sites where ventricular adhesions occur, the intestines may develop on themselves and may interfere with the normal movement of their contents (especially in the small intestine). 
  • Abdominal adhesions that cause complete bowel obstruction can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention and often surgery. 
  • Abdominal adhesions can cause female infertility by preventing the fertilized eggs from reaching the uterus, where the fetus develops. 
  • There are no tests to diagnose adhesions, and adhesions can not be seen through imaging techniques such as x-rays or ultrasound. 
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction can be observed through abdominal x-rays, barium contrast studies (G series or less) and computed tomography (CT). 
  • The treatment of abdominal adhesions is laparoscopic surgery or open surgery where the adhesions are cut with scalpel or electric current.

What are abdominal adhesions?

Abdominal adhesions are bands of tissue that form between tissues and organs in the abdomen. These vary from the consistency of moist tissue paper, which is of little importance, to a strong fibrous band that can easily cause obstruction. Usually, the internal tissues and organs have slippery surfaces, which allows them to easily rotate as the body moves. Adhesions cause tissues and organs to adhere to each other.

The intestines are part of the digestive system. Abdominal adhesions can cause intestinal obstruction.

Although most adhesions do not cause symptoms or problems, others cause chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. Adhesions are also one of the main causes of intestinal obstruction and female IQ male infertility.

What causes abdominal adhesions?


Abdominal surgery is the most common cause of abdominal adhesions. Almost all people undergoing abdominal surgery develop adhesions. However, the risk is higher after operations on the lower abdomen and pelvis, including the bowel and gynecomastia surgery. Adhesions can get bigger and more severe over time, causing problems years after surgery.

The causes of surgery caused by abdominal adhesions include

  • Tissue cracks, especially those that involve internal organs.
  • Deal with internal organs.
  • Drying of internal organs and tissues.
  • Contact of internal tissues with foreign materials, such as gauze, surgical gloves, stitches.
  • Blood or blood clots that have not been rinsed during surgery

A less common cause of abdominal adhesions is inflammation from sources unrelated to surgery, which include:

  • Appendicitis, in particular, rupture of the appendix.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer Gynecology.
  • gynecological infections
  • Inflammation of the abdomen

Rarely, abdominal adhesions are formed for no apparent reason.

How can abdominal adhesions cause intestinal obstruction?

Abdominal adhesions may sink, turn or pull the bowel out of place, causing intestinal obstruction. A partial or total intestinal obstruction restricts the movement of food or feces through the intestines. Complete bowel obstruction threatens life and requires immediate medical attention and often surgery.

How can abdominal adhesions cause infertility in women?

Abdominal adhesions cause infertility in women, preventing the fertilized egg from reaching the uterus, where fetal development occurs. Adhesions may sink, turn, or withdraw from the place of the fallopian tubes, which transport the eggs from the ovaries – where the eggs are stored and released – to the uterus.

What are the symptoms of abdominal adhesions?

Although most abdominal adhesions go unnoticed, the most common symptom is chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. The pain often mimics that of other conditions, such as appendicitis, endometriosis, and dysentery.

What are the symptoms of intestinal obstruction?

Symptoms include intestinal obstruction

  • Acute abdominal pain, nausea or cramping
  • Throwing up
  • Swelling
  • The strong intestine sounds
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Constipation

A person with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

Can abdominal adhesions be prevented?

Adhesions in the abdomen are difficult to prevent. However, smooth and precise surgical techniques can reduce the formation of adhesions.

Laparoscopic surgery avoids opening the abdomen with a large incision. Instead, the abdomen is inflated with gas (carbon dioxide) while special surgical instruments and the video camera are threaded through a few small abdominal incisions. Inflating the abdomen gives the surgeon room to work.

If a large abdominal incision is needed, a special material (cephalad film) can be inserted between the organs or between the organs and the abdomen is cut at the end of the surgery. The material of the film, which looks like wax paper, is absorbed by the body in about a week and tends to reduce adhesion formation.

Other steps during surgery include reducing adhesion with latex gloves without starch, gently manipulating tissues and organs, shortening the time of surgery and not allowing tissues to dry out.


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Abdominal. Last update: 4/25/2011 Adhesions.


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