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What are Abdominal Adhesions?

By L. Hepfer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Abdominal adhesions are sections of fibrous scar tissue that form on internal organs inside the body. They can grow in size and become attached to one other if more than one adhesion is present. Abdominal adhesions usually develop after someone has had surgery and are often referred to as scar tissue. While they can occur after any surgery, they are more common in people who have experienced abdominal surgeries.

For most people, abdominal adhesions do not cause health issues, and a person usually isn't aware the adhesions are present. However, sometimes they can lead to partially blocking the intestines or becoming a bowel obstruction. Blocked intestines or bowel obstructions can ultimately lead to death if a person does not seek medical attention.

There are different circumstances that can lead to a person developing abdominal adhesions. One example would be where different organs are being handled by members of a surgical team during surgery. These organs are temporarily moved from their normal positions, which can cause a person to eventually develop abdominal adhesions during the healing process after the surgery.

People with peritonitis, an infection that is in the membrane that covers the abdomen, may be prone to abdominal adhesions. Another condition called endometriosis can lead to abdominal adhesions as well. Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition found in women involving the uterus, which oftentimes is accompanied by adhesions that form in order to protect the body from the inflammation.

There are generally no symptoms of abdominal adhesions unless something is wrong inside the body. When complications arise, a person then begins to experience different symptoms. Intestines that are partially blocked will cause abdominal cramping. Severe abdominal pain, swelling in the abdomen, vomiting, a lack of bowel movement and the inability to pass gas are all severe symptoms that could signify an intestinal obstruction.

There is really no particular way a person can prevent abdominal adhesions from developing and growing inside their body. If a person begins to experience any extreme pain or problems with their abdomen, they should seek professional help. The only solution to removing the adhesions would be to have them surgically removed.

Laparoscopic surgery is performed to determine where the adhesions are and what complications they are causing. The adhesions can be removed, but because surgery is generally the cause of the abdominal adhesions, having surgery to correct it could eventually cause more adhesions to grow. Fortunately, it is very rare for someone who has never had surgery to develop abdominal adhesions.

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