Abdominal Adhesions: Symptoms, Prevention

Overview

Abdominal adhesions are bands of fibrous scar tissue that form on organs in the abdomen. When this condition occurs, your organs will stick to one another or to the wall of abdomen. Abdominal adhesions are most commonly diagnosed in people who undergo abdominal surgery. Also, people who have never had surgery are possible to develop it, but the cases are very rare.

 

Causes

The main factor contributing to abdominal adhesions is surgery. Nearly everyone having had abdominal surgery develops this condition. Furthermore, if you undergo an operation on the lower abdomen and pelvis, including bowel and gynecological surgeries, you may have a much higher risk.

Exact causes related to surgery involve:

  • Tissue incisions, especially involving internal organs
  • Cuts involving internal organs
  • Handling of internal operation
  • Drying out of internal organs and tissues
  • Contact of internal tissues with foreign materials, such as gauze, surgical gloves, and stitches
  • Blood or blood clots that were not rinsed away during surgery

Besides surgery, inflammation may lead to abdominal adhesions as well, including:

  • appendix rupture
  • radiation treatment
  • gynecological infections
  • abdominal infections

 

Symptoms

In most cases, people with abdominal adhesions don’t experience symptoms. If symptoms appear, the most common symptom is chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. In addition, abdominal adhesions sometimes block your intestine. This will bring about intestinal obstruction, causing the following symptoms:

  • Severe, crampy abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Loud bowel sounds
  • Swelling of the abdomen (abdominal distension)
  • Inability to pass gas and absent or infrequent bowel movements
  • Signs of dehydration, including dry skin, dry mouth and tongue, severe thirst, infrequent urination, fast heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Constipation

 

Diagnosis

There are no tests available for diagnosing abdominal adhesions. Doctors are not able to see adhesions through imaging techniques such as X-ray or Ultrasound. Most of abdominal adhesions are found during surgery performed to examine the abdomen. Nevertheless, intestinal obstruction can be diagnosed by:

 

Treatment

If the condition causes no problems, treatment is not necessary. At present, surgery is the only available treatment that can break adhesions causing pain, intestine obstruction or fertility problems. Although partial intestinal obstructions usually can be managed without surgery, complete intestinal obstructions need to be treated immediately.

 

Prevention

While it’s difficult to prevent abdominal adhesions, the risk can be minimized through the way surgery is performed.

  • Laparoscopic surgery

In this surgery, the abdomen will be inflated with gas. The surgeon can have room to operate. At the same time, special surgical tools and a video camera will be threaded through a few, small abdominal incisions. This approach avoids opening up the abdomen with a large incision, lowering the risk of abdominal adhesions.

But sometimes laparoscopic surgery is not possible. Doctors have to choose a large abdominal incision. Under this circumstance, they will insert a special filmlike material between organs or between the organs and the abdominal incision at the end of surgery. This type of material can be absorbed by the body in about a week, helping avoid the formation of adhesions.

Other steps that may be taken during surgery include:

  • Using starch- and latex-free gloves
  • Handling tissues and organs gently
  • Shortening surgery time
  • Not allowing tissues to dry out
  • Occasionally applying saline solution

 

Keywords: abdominal adhesions.

 

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.