Adhesions are bands of scar-like tissue that form between two surfaces inside the body and cause them to stick together.
As the body moves, tissues or organs inside are normally able to shift around each other. This is because these tissues have slippery surfaces.
Inflammation (swelling), surgery, or injury can cause adhesions to form almost anywhere in the body, including:
Once they form, adhesions can become larger or tighter over time. Symptoms or other problems may occur if the adhesions cause an organ or body part to twist, pull out of position, or be unable to move as well.
The risk of forming adhesions is high after bowel or female organ surgeries. Surgery using a laparascope is less likely than open surgery to cause adhesions.
Other causes of adhesions in the abdomen or pelvis:
Adhesions may form around joints such as the shoulder (see adhesive capsulitis) or ankles, or in ligaments and tendons. This problem may happen:
Adhesions in joints, tendons, or ligaments make it harder to move the joint and may cause pain.
Adhesions in the belly (abdomen) that caused a kink, twist, or pulling may cause a blockage of the intestines. Symptoms include:
Adhesions in the pelvis may cause chronic or long-term pelvic pain.
Most of the time, the adhesions cannot be seen using x-rays or imaging tests.
Surgery may be done to separate the adhesions. This often allows normal movement of the organ and reduces the symptoms caused by the adhesion. However, the risk for more adhesions increases as the number of surgeries increases.
Depending on the location of the adhesions, at the time of surgery a barrier can be placed to try to reduce the chance of the adhesions returning.
See also: Intestinal obstruction repair
The outcome is usually good.
Depending on the tissues involved, adhesions can cause various disorders.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Pelvic adhesion; Intraperitoneal adhesion; Intrauterine adhesion
Reviewed by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington. Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Unviersity of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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