Intestinal adhesions are bands of fibrous tissue that can connect the
loops of the intestines to each other, or the intestines to other abdominal
organs, or the intestines to the abdominal wall. These bands can pull sections
of the intestines out of place and may block passage of food. Adhesions
are a major cause of intestinal obstruction.
Adhesions may be present at birth (congenital) or may form after abdominal
surgery or inflammation. Most form after surgery. They are more common
after procedures on the colon, appendix, or uterus than after surgery on
the stomach, gall bladder, or pancreas. The risk of developing adhesions
increases with the passage of time after the surgery.
Some adhesions will cause no symptoms. If the adhesions cause partial
or complete obstruction of the intestines, the symptoms one would feel
would depend on the degree and the location of the obstruction. They include
crampy abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating, an inability to pass gas, and
X rays (computed tomography) or barium contrast studies may be used to
locate the obstruction. Exploratory surgery can also locate the adhesions
and the source of pain.
Some adhesions will cause no symptoms and go away by themselves. For people
whose intestines are only partially blocked, a diet low in fiber, called
a low-residue diet, allows food to move more easily through the affected
area. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the adhesions,
reposition the intestine, and relieve symptoms. But the risk of developing
more adhesions increases with each additional surgery.
Methods to prevent adhesions include using biodegradable membranes or
gels to separate organs at the end of surgery or performing laparoscopic
(keyhole) surgery, which reduces the size of the incision and the handling
of the organs.
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