About abdominal adhesions

What is 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.

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 are the symptoms for abdominal adhesions?

Pelvic pain symptom was found in the abdominal adhesions condition

Although Abdominal Pain and other symptoms of intestinal obstruction are by far the most common effect of adhesions, another important consequence is infertility in women. The infertility is believed to be caused by adhesions involving the Fallopian tubes that results in kinking and obstruction, thereby preventing the eggs that are released from the ovary from reaching the uterus.

  • Symptoms caused by adhesions may vary from specific (typical) to non-specific.
  • When the symptoms are typical, the diagnosis is easy since adhesions are the most common cause of intestinal obstruction.
  • The typical symptoms of obstruction are
    • abdominal Discomfort located around the belly button (umbilicus) that is cramp-like, followed by distention of the abdomen.
    • Symptoms often are worsened by eating.
    • There may be reduction in the amount of flatus (gas) or stool that is passed and, with prolonged obstruction, Nausea and Vomiting may occur.
    • When the obstruction is incomplete or intermittent, symptoms may be less severe with Abdominal Pain or cramping occurring only after meals.
    • Although uncommon, obstruction also may manifest primarily as Nausea with or without vomiting, especially when the obstruction occurs in the proximal small intestine near the stomach.

It is important to remember, however, that most adhesions do not cause symptoms.

What are the causes for abdominal adhesions?

Adhesions form when inflammation occurs on the surface of the abdominal organs or the peritoneal lining of the abdominal cavity; the formation of scar tissue is a normal part of healing when there is inflammation. The cause of the inflammation can vary considerably. It may be due to inflammation of an organ (for example, cholecystitis, appendicitis), prior surgery in which organs or the peritoneal lining are cut, inflammation of the peritoneal lining of the abdomen (peritonitis), or abdominal radiation treatment. Other causes of inflammation and scarring include:

  • handling of abdominal organs at the time of surgery,
  • foreign objects left inside the abdomen at the time of surgery (for example, a piece of gauze),
  • bleeding into the peritoneal cavity, and
  • gynecological conditions (for example, pelvic inflammatory disease).

Under normal conditions, the loops of the small and large intestines are free to move around within the abdominal cavity, sliding over each other and the surrounding organs over a thin film of lubricating fluid. When adhesions form, the intestines are no longer able to move around freely because they become tethered to each other, the abdominal wall or to other abdominal organs. At the sites where adhesions occur, the intestine can twist on itself, and the twisting may obstruct the blood supply or the normal movement of its contents, particularly in the small intestine. Most of the time the twisting is intermittent, but occasionally the twisting does not reverse spontaneously. The symptoms from adhesions may occur soon after the inflammatory process sets in; however, more typically they occur several months or even many years later.

What are the treatments for abdominal adhesions?

Abdominal adhesions can kink, twist, or pull the intestines out of place, causing an intestinal obstruction. An intestinal obstruction partially or completely restricts the movement of food or stool through the intestines. A complete intestinal obstruction is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention and often surgery.

What are the risk factors for abdominal adhesions?

  • Of patients who undergo abdominal surgery, 93 percent develop abdominal adhesions.
  • Surgery in the lower abdomen and pelvis, including bowel and gynecological operations, carries an even greater chance of abdominal adhesions.
  • Abdominal adhesions can become larger and tighter as time passes, sometimes causing problems years after surgery.

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