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 and prevent this movement. Adhesions can occur almost anywhere in the body, including:
Adhesions can become larger or tighter over time. Problems may occur if the adhesions cause an organ or body part to:
The risk of forming adhesions is high after bowel or female organ surgeries. Surgery using a laparoscope is less likely to cause adhesions than open surgery.
Other causes of adhesions in the abdomen or pelvis include:
Adhesions around the joints may occur:
Adhesions in joints, tendons, or ligaments make it harder to move the joint. They may also cause pain.
Adhesions in the belly (abdomen) 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 can let the organ regain normal movement and reduce symptoms. However, the risk for more adhesions goes up with more surgeries.
Depending on the location of the adhesions, a barrier may be placed at the time of surgery to help reduce the chance of the adhesions returning.
The outcome is good in most cases.
Adhesions can cause various disorders, depending on the tissues affected.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Pelvic adhesion; Intraperitoneal adhesion; Intrauterine adhesion
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Kulaylat MN, Dayton, MT. Surgical complications. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 13.
Paine R. Rehabilitation and therapeutic modalities: a language of exercise and rehabilitation. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 5 section A.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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