Abdominal Adhesions (Scar Tissue in the Abdomen)

woman with abdominal pain

What are abdominal adhesions?

Abdominal adhesions are bands of tissue that form between abdominal tissues and organs. these vary from a consistency of wet tissue paper, which are of little significance, to a strong, fibrous band that can readily cause obstruction. Normally, internal tissues and organs have slippery surfaces, which allow them to shift easily as the body moves. Adhesions cause tissues and organs to stick together.

Picture of the organs and glands in the abodmen
Picture of the organs and glands in the abodmen

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

Although most adhesions cause no symptoms or problems, others cause chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. Adhesions are also a major cause of intestinal obstruction and female infertility.

What causes abdominal adhesions?

Abdominal surgery is the most frequent cause of abdominal adhesions. Almost everyone who undergoes abdominal surgery develops adhesions; however, the risk is greater after operations on the lower abdomen and pelvis, including bowel and gynecological surgeries. Adhesions can become larger and tighter as time passes, causing problems years after surgery.

Surgery-induced causes of abdominal adhesions include

  • tissue incisions, especially those involving internal organs
  • the handling of internal organs
  • the 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 out during surgery

A less common cause of abdominal adhesions is inflammation from sources not related to surgery, including

Rarely, abdominal adhesions form without apparent cause.

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