Identifying and Treating Abdominal Adhesion Symptoms

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What Are the Symptoms of Abdominal Adhesions?

Any time a person undergoes surgery that involves the pelvic or abdominal regions, they are at risk for developing abdominal adhesion symptoms post-op. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that connect two body surfaces that are normally separated. Adhesions tend to develop while the body is healing from trauma such as surgery, injury, infection or radiation. They can also develop as a result of inflammation in the pelvis or abdomen. They appear as thin sheets of tissue or thick fibrous bands. Adhesions can involve the spine, hand, area around the heart, bowel or female reproductive organs such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.


Abdominal adhesions are mostly caused by abdominal surgery and are more likely to occur in the lower abdomen and pelvis. Internal tissues coming into contact with foreign material during surgery, handling or drying out of internal organs/tissues and tissue incisions can all cause abdominal adhesions. Non-surgical causes include gynecological or abdominal infections, cancer radiation treatments and appendicitis.


Symptoms of abdominal adhesions include chronic plain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pain or difficulty making a bowel movement, pain while lying, walking or sitting in certain positions and urinary bladder dysfunction. Abdominal adhesions can lead to serious complications such as hemorrhage, intestinal obstruction, painful intercourse and infertility in women.

Intestinal Obstruction

Abdominal adhesions may twist, kink and pull the small intestines out of place and cause an obstruction that partially or completely restricts movement of stool or food through the intestine. This is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention and most likely surgery.


Abdominal adhesions can kink, pull and twist the fallopian tubes out of place and prevent fertilized eggs from reaching the uterus. Laparoscopy is usually performed to treat adhesions in the fallopian tubes because there is lower risk of new adhesions.


Abdominal adhesions are difficult to diagnose via x-ray, ultrasound or CT scans. Their symptoms are similar to those of other conditions such as endometriosis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. Adhesions often go undetected until a doctor performs tests to rule out the presence of other conditions. Abdominal adhesions can only be detected by performing a diagnostic laparoscopy and are usually released during the procedure.

Treatment Options

Abdominal adhesions causing intestinal obstruction require immediate surgery. Partial intestinal obstructions may be remedied with a low-residue or liquid diet. A low-residue diet is low in fiber and high in diary products and is more easily digested. Medication may also be prescribed to treat adhesions. Laparoscopic surgery is the only treatment option for adhesions that cause chronic pain or fertility issues. However, surgery poses the risk of more adhesions developing later on, and it should be considered when all other non-surgical treatment options have proven ineffective.