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What is Desmoplasia?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Desmoplasia is the growth of fibrous connective tissue in an area of the body where it does not normally appear. This type of tissue growth usually occurs as part of what is known as a desmoplastic reaction, where the patient's body develops abnormal tissue in response to trauma. In some cases, desmoplasia is benign, while in other cases it may be dangerous or associated with a malignancy. In situations where it is a cause for concern, a surgeon may be called in to excise or break up the tissue.

One common form of desmoplasia is an adhesion, a band of tough, fibrous tissue known to develop in the abdomen after some surgeries and in response to chronic inflammation. Adhesions can become a problem, as they may interfere with organ function and can lead to situations like strictures, where the intestines and other structures are compressed by the desmoplasia, and the patient develops a disorder like a bowel obstruction. Surgical treatments are available to remove the tissue, and mesh may be implanted to prevent new adhesions from forming after the surgery.

Some malignancies can trigger a desmoplastic reaction, causing fibrous tissue to form around or near a tumor as the body responds to the inflammation associated with the uncontrolled cell growth. This tissue may be removed during a surgery to take out the tumor, or left in place, depending on the tumor and the patient. It can also form during cancer treatment, as patients are treated with chemotherapy and radiation, as inflammation is associated with many cancer treatments.

Benign desmoplastic growths sometimes develop in patients, particularly around the bone. A pathologist may be asked to examine a specimen to determine the origins and see if it is likely to spread. If the growth is not harmful, a wait and see approach will usually be recommended; the growth may need to be removed if it grows unusually large, but otherwise, the patient should be able to live comfortably with the desmoplasia.

When a doctor suggests that a growth may be desmoplasia or a desmoplastic reaction, this is not necessarily a cause for panic. Fibrous tissue can develop in a variety of circumstances and more information is needed to determine if it is harmful and what the best approach to treatment would be. While such growths can be associated with tumors, this is not always the case, and patients should not jump to conclusions.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Oct 31, 2011

I developed desmoplasia in the form of adhesions after an emergency appendectomy surgery. When I went in for this surgery, it was more like an exploratory surgery because they were not sure what was wrong.

Once they were able to open me up, they discovered my appendix had burst and removed it.

For many months after this I continued to have abdominal pains. It felt like they had removed all of my organs and just shoved them back inside and sewed me back up.

I found out my pain was the cause of adhesions that had formed inside my abdomen from the surgery. This required another surgery to have them removed.

I certainly wasn't looking forward to this, but knew it must be done to avoid further damage to my organs. This time they did put some kind of mesh in there so I would not develop the adhesions again.

Whatever they did worked because I have not had the pain and other effects I had after the first surgery.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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