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Lysis Of Abdominal Adhesions

What are adhesions?

Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that can grow anywhere inside your body. Common places for adhesions to grow are in your abdomen and pelvis. The pelvis is the area in the lower abdomen between your hips. Adhesions can cause organs and surrounding tissue to be twisted, pulled out of place or stuck together. Adhesions are caused by body tissue injury. The growth of adhesions depends on how your body reacts to the tissue injury. Some causes of adhesion growth are as follows:

  • Diseases and infections that cause tissue injury. Certain diseases and infections can lead to irritation and damage of the organs and tissues. Examples of these are endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Radiation therapy. You may have an illness that is being treated with regular x-ray treatments. These treatments may cause you to be at higher risk of growing adhesions around the tissue that is being x-rayed.
  • Surgery. Certain surgeries, such as abdominal surgery, may cause adhesions to form. Adhesion growth may depend on the number and type of surgery you had, and how long it lasted. Adhesion growth may also depend on how your body normally heals. Adhesions are more likely to grow after a laparotomy (open surgery).

What problems can be caused by adhesions?

  • Blocked intestine. A blocked intestine is also called an "intestinal (or bowel) obstruction". When you eat, food passes through your body's digestive system. The digestive system includes organs such as the stomach, liver, and small and large intestines. Food and waste cannot pass normally through an area of intestine that is fully or partly blocked. This can cause problems including pain, constipation (having hard, dry stools which are difficult to pass, less often than usual) and vomiting (throwing up).
    Picture of a normal digestive system
  • Infertility. Adhesions can block the egg from traveling from the ovaries and fallopian tubes to the uterus. When this happens, a woman cannot get pregnant. Adhesions can also block a man's sperm from passing into a woman's body. A man with this problem will be unable to make the woman pregnant.

  • Long-term pain in your abdomen or pelvic area.
  • Longer time in surgery. If you have adhesions, your time in surgery may be increased. You may need surgery to remove the adhesions themselves, or your surgeon may need to remove adhesions before doing another type of surgery.

How are adhesions diagnosed and treated?

  • Laparoscopy: This is surgery to look inside your abdomen. Caregivers use an instrument called a laparoscope to do this surgery. A laparoscope is a long metal tube with a magnifying glass, a light, and a camera on the end. The laparoscope is put in through a small incision (cut) in or below your belly button. Other tools are put into your abdomen through other small incisions. Caregivers use the laparoscope to look for adhesions on and around your organs. Your surgeon will look for adhesions, and then may cut or remove them.
  • Laparotomy: This is also called open surgery. During this surgery your surgeon will make an incision (cut) in your abdomen. Your surgeon will look for adhesions, and then may cut or remove them.
  • Adhesiolysis (ad-he-zee-oh-LEYE-sis): This is a procedure that may be done during a laparoscopy or laparotomy. The surgeon uses instruments to cut or burn away the adhesions, or a laser may be used to remove them.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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