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Adhesions, General and After Surgery

When to Seek Medical Care

See a doctor any time you experience abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or unexplained fever. If you have undergone surgery or have a history of medical illness, discuss any changes in your recovery or condition with your doctor.

Call 911 and go to the nearest emergency department if chest pain occurs.

Exams and Tests

Doctors typically diagnose adhesions during a surgical procedure such as laparoscopy (putting a camera through a small hole into the stomach to visualize the organs). If they find adhesions, doctors usually can release them during the same surgery.

Studies such as blood tests, x-rays, and CT scans may be useful to determine the extent of an adhesion-related problem. However, a diagnosis of adhesions usually is made only during surgery. A physician, for example, can diagnose small bowel obstruction but cannot determine if adhesions are the cause without surgery.

Adhesions Treatment - Self-Care at Home

Adhesions must be diagnosed and treated by a physician.

Medical Treatment

Treatment varies depending on the location, extent of adhesion formation, and problems the adhesion is causing. Adhesions frequently improve without surgery. Therefore, unless a surgical emergency becomes evident, a doctor may treat symptoms rather than perform surgery.

Surgery

Two common surgical techniques used to treat abdominal adhesions are laparoscopy and laparotomy.

  • With laparoscopy, a doctor places a camera into your body through a small hole in the skin to confirm that adhesions exist. The adhesions then are cut and released (adhesiolysis).
  • In laparotomy, a doctor makes a larger incision to directly see adhesions and treat them. The technique varies depending on specific circumstances.

Next Steps - Follow-up

If you have undergone surgery or have a history of medical illness, always discuss changes in your recovery or condition with your doctor.

Prevention

Steps are taken during surgery to try and minimize the formation of adhesions. Some of these may include: shortening surgical time, keeping the tissues moist, gentle handling of any tissues or organs, and using starch –free and latex-free gloves.  Several surgical products have also been developed to try to help prevent adhesions from forming during surgery. Film-like sheets are sometimes used between organs or body surfaces after large, open surgical procedures.  

Outlook

Adhesions requiring surgery commonly come back because surgery itself causes adhesions.

Synonyms and Keywords

adhesion, pelvic adhesion, heart adhesion, pericardial adhesion, intrauterine adhesion, tissue disturbance, surgery, infection, trauma, radiation, scar tissue, small-bowel obstruction, pelvic pain, chronic pelvic pain, intestinal adhesion, general adhesion, general adhesions, adhesion after surgery, adhesions after surgery, abdominal adhesion, adhesion causes, adhesion symptoms

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WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 04, 2014

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