Adhesions are bands of scar-like tissue that form between two surfaces inside the body and cause them to stick together.
Pelvic adhesion; Intraperitoneal adhesion; Intrauterine adhesion
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 long-term (chronic) pelvic pain.
Exams and Tests
Most of the time, the adhesions cannot be seen using x-rays or imaging tests.
Endoscopy (a way of looking inside the body using a flexible tube that has a small camera on the end) may help diagnose adhesions:
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have:
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: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 13.
Nakamura N, Rodeo SA, Alini M, Maher S, Madry H, Erggelet C. Physiology and pathophysuiology of musculoskeletal tissues. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 1.
Review Date: 4/5/2016
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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