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Abdominal Adhesions: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Diet

What Are Abdominal Adhesions?

Abdominal Adhesions are fibrous bands which tend to form between organs and abdominal tissues. These bands can be extremely mild not causing any adverse effects and of little to no clinical significance and there can also be extremely strong bands which tend to cause obstruction. Adhesions can also cause the organs to get glued to each other.

What Are The Causes Of Abdominal Adhesions?

The root cause of Abdominal Adhesions by far is a surgical procedure to the abdomen. It is believed that majority of individuals who undergo an abdominal surgery end up having Abdominal Adhesions at one point or the other. The risk factor for this magnifies in people who have undergone surgery to the lower portion of the abdomen, pelvis, any type of bowel surgeries, or gynecological procedures. Abdominal Adhesions tend to become larger and tighter with the passage of time resulting in complications many years down the line after the surgery. Some of the causes of Abdominal Adhesions as a result of surgery are:

    • Incisions in the tissues, especially involving internal organs
    • Procedures that involve handling of internal organs
  • Drying out of internal organs
  • When medical equipment or materials such as gauze, surgical gloves, etc come in contact with the tissues
  • Blood clots not properly rinsed at the time of the surgical procedure.

Abdominal Adhesions

Some Of The Less Common Causes For Abdominal Adhesions Are:

  • Appendicitis
  • Radiation treatments
  • Gynecological infections
  • Abdominal infections.

Facts About Abdominal Adhesions

Mentioned below are some facts about Abdominal Adhesions:

  • Abdominal Adhesions are strands of scar tissue between organs and abdominal tissues resulting in them get stuck together
  • Abdominal Adhesions are usually asymptomatic but some type of adhesions do cause some symptoms
  • Some of the common symptoms of Abdominal Adhesions are cramping like abdominal discomfort in or near the belly button. There may also be abdominal distention observed. In cases of obstruction due to Abdominal Adhesions, the symptoms may be more intense
  • The most common cause of Abdominal Adhesions is any type of surgical procedure in the abdomen. Some of the other causes include any sort of organ inflammation like appendicitis, peritonitis, any foreign object present in the abdomen during surgery
  • Abdominal Adhesions which cause complete obstruction of the intestine can be potentially serious and life-threatening situation and needs immediate medical care or even surgery
  • Basic treatment for Abdominal Adhesions is laparoscopic surgery in which the adhesions are removed from the body with the use of either electric current or with the help of a scalpel.

What Are The Symptoms Of Abdominal Adhesions?

Most cases of Abdominal Adhesions do not produce any symptoms but the most common symptoms of Abdominal Adhesions are severe pain in the abdomen or the pelvis area. This pain may be mistaken for other conditions like appendicitis etc.

How Is Abdominal Adhesions Diagnosed?

Abdominal Adhesions are not easy to detect whether it be by any screening or use of x-rays of ultrasound techniques. Majority of the cases of Abdominal Adhesions are identified when the individual is undergoing a surgical procedure in the abdominal or pelvic area. However in some cases x ray of the abdomen, a lower GI series, or a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis can identify Abdominal Adhesions.

X-Rays: While doing an abdominal x-ray, a small amount of contrast material is used to form an image of the area and then an x-ray is taken as an outpatient which is then read by the radiologist to rule in or rule out Abdominal Adhesions.

Lower GI Series: Also known by the name of barium enema, lower GI series is a comprehensive x-ray examination of the large intestine. In this procedure, the intestine is filled with barium which is a white colored substance in order to increase the clarity of the films so that the radiologist can interpret the films more accurately and is quite useful in determining whether an individual has Abdominal Adhesions.

CT Scan: A Computerized Tomography scan is also quite useful in giving accurate images of the abdomen and identifies presence of Abdominal Adhesions. The scan is done with or without a contrast material.

What Are The Treatments For Abdominal Adhesions?

Treatment generally is not required for Abdominal Adhesions as they are usually asymptomatic and do not tend to cause problems; however, in order to get rid of the adhesions the only way is to perform a surgery in case if the adhesions start causing a lot of pain and discomfort to the affected individual, although additional surgery carries with it a risk for more adhesions and hence it is usually avoided. In cases if an Abdominal Adhesion causes intestinal obstruction then surgery is the need of the hour and should be performed to get rid of the obstruction. In case of a partial or incomplete obstruction, then that can be relieved by dietary changes like having a low residue as they are high in dairy products and are low in fiber and thus they are easily broken down by the digestive system of the body.

How Can One Prevent Abdominal Adhesions?

It is extremely tough to prevent development of Abdominal Adhesions; however, gentle surgical techniques can definitely prevent formation of Abdominal Adhesions. Laparoscopic surgery is preferred as in this procedure the abdomen is not required to be opened up and the abdomen is filled with carbon dioxide gas thus inflating the abdomen making it easier for the surgeon to operate. In case if an incision is required to open up the abdomen a film like material called Seprafilm is inserted in between organs. This material gets absorbed by the body in some time and reduces the risk of formation of adhesions significantly. Some of the other precautions which can be taken during abdominal surgeries are using latex free gloves, handling organs and tissues with great care and avoiding the tissues to get dried.

Diet For Abdominal Adhesions

As stated above, dietary modifications can help an individual with partial or complete obstruction due to Abdominal Adhesions. The diet usually recommended is a low-residue diet in which foods that tend to leave undigested materials in the digestive tract are avoided. This form of diet may not be absolutely nutritious but it helps in cutting down on the frequency of an individual’s bowel movements and control pain. Some of the foods which an individual should avoid are cereals, brown rice, vegetables, juices with pulp, dried beans. Foods which an individual can eat are yogurt, pudding, ice cream, soups but one should ensure that these foods are devoid of any type of seed or pulp. One can also take eggs and fish as they are also helpful. The individual should limit dairy products like milk to no more than a couple of cups a day. The diet plan formulated by the dietician may vary depending on the level of obstruction that an individual has.


  1. “Abdominal Adhesions” by L. Michael Brunt, MD, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Available at: https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-abdominal-adhesions
  2. “Abdominal Adhesions” by Liana O. Koeppel, MD, Columbia University Department of Surgery. Available at: https://columbiasurgery.org/conditions-and-treatments/abdominal-adhesions
  3. “Abdominal Adhesions” by Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/abdominal-adhesions/symptoms-causes/syc-20351700
  4. “Abdominal Adhesions” by Peter Janetzko, MD, HealthLink BC. Available at: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/ababs
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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