What are Colon Adhesions?

Amy Hunter

Colon adhesions are bands of scar tissue that form after infection, bleeding, surgery, or trauma. These bands of tissue are sticky, and can make the internal organs stick to each other or to surrounding tissue. Adhesions in the colon can lead to intestinal obstructions and infection, serious conditions that require medical attention.

Abdominal pain may be a sign of a colon adhesion.
Abdominal pain may be a sign of a colon adhesion.

The most frequently occurrence of colon adhesions takes place followng abdominal surgery. Adhesions take four to six weeks to develop, and may remain in place, without causing symptoms, for years. Of all people who develop adhesions, approximately one-third of them will experience pain and other symptoms.

Surgeons may use latex free gloves to prevent adhesions during surgery.
Surgeons may use latex free gloves to prevent adhesions during surgery.

It is not fully understood why some people develop colon adhesions and other do not. Some people may be genetically predisposed to develop adhesions. Factors such as the type of surgical procedure used, the type of gloves used by the surgeon, and whether the organs are wiped dry during surgery may all have an impact on the development of adhesions.

The primary symptom of colon adhesions is pain in the abdomen or pelvic area. This pain is often mistaken for other health conditions, including diverticulitis, endometriosis, and appendicitis. Symptoms that the adhesions have created an intestinal obstruction include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, swelling of the abdomen, and the inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement, along with abdominal cramps.

Colon adhesions can lead to serious health complications. The adhesions can cut off blood supply to the affected area of the colon, leading to tissue death. Perforations can also develop in the affected area, creating an opening for infection. Peritonitis is the term used for infections that develop in the abdominal cavity. These infections are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of peritonitis include the inability to pass waste or gas, a decrease in urine production, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, chills, thirst, and tenderness, swelling, and pain in the abdomen. Treatment for peritonitis is aggressive, to stop the spread of infection. Treatment includes antibiotics to fight the existing infection, and often surgery to remove the source of the infection.

Despite the problems associated with colon adhesions, they are typically left untreated unless they are causing chronic pain or obstructions. The treatment for adhesions is surgical removal, which can lead to the development of additional adhesions. Care during surgery may minimize the development of adhesions. Using starch and latex free gloves, performing laparoscopic surgery rather than traditional abdominal surgery, which creates a large opening, not allowing organs and tissues to dry out, and shortening surgical time can all reduce the likelihood of developing adhesions.

Colon adhesions can cause internal organs to stick to one another or to other surrounding tissue.
Colon adhesions can cause internal organs to stick to one another or to other surrounding tissue.

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Discussion Comments


Ever since I was young I have had strange abdominal pains. Sometimes I will go for months with no symptoms at all, and other times I would be doubled over in pain.

My doctor told me I had endometriosis. This can be very similar to abdominal adhesions symptoms, and either way, the pain can be quite intense.

To a certain degree, I have learned to live with some abdominal discomfort. As long as I know what the problem is, it is a little bit easier to deal with it.


@Mykol - Has your doctor ever recommended you have surgery to remove your adhesions? I ended up having surgery to remove some intestinal adhesions, and have felt so much better.

I wasn't excited about having another surgery done, but also didn't want to continue living with the painful symptoms of the adhesions.

Sometimes you can also have some very serious problems if you don't get them taken care of. I was afraid I might get more adhesions from the surgery to remove the adhesions, but so far I have not had any of that familiar pain I used to have.


I developed adhesions from scar tissue after I had an appendectomy. I never realized how painful these could be. Sometimes the pain was so uncomfortable, it felt like I was having an appendicitis attack.

Since I knew I no longer had an appendix, the pain was from the adhesions. It has been years since I had that surgery, but I still have periods where my adhesions will give me problems.

My body must have a way of building up scar tissue more than most people. For many years it felt like they removed my appendix and just shoved all my other organs back inside and sewed me up.

Once I found out the adhesions were the problem, it all started to make sense why I still had abdominal pain.

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