What is Adhesion Surgery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Adhesion surgery is surgery performed to treat adhesions, fibrous bands of tissue forming abnormal connections between organs and other internal structures in the body. Adhesions can be caused by a number of things, ranging from inflammatory disease to surgery, and in some cases, they may become a medical issue, requiring treatment in an operating room. Surgery for adhesions is often performed laparoscopically, although sometimes it may be necessary to have an open surgery.

Made up of scar tissue, adhesions join structures inside the body together, limiting their free movement. People with adhesions can develop pain, torsion of internal organs, and other problems. Adhesions most commonly form in the pelvis, often as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease, in addition to being found in the abdomen and around the heart. In surgery, care must be taken to reduce the risk of forming adhesions by keeping tissue moist and being as minimally invasive as possible. The use of adhesion barriers in surgery has greatly reduced the risk of developing adhesions after surgery by preventing the formation of bands of internal scar tissue.

Depending on their location, adhesions can cause various symptoms. Patients may experience chronic pain, infertility, digestive problems, bowel obstructions, and other problems. Known risk factors for adhesions like a history of inflammatory disease or surgery can be used to determine whether a patient has adhesions, and patients can also be given medical imaging scans to look for signs of damage to the organs caused by adhesions.


When adhesions cause complications and pain for a patient, adhesion surgery may be recommended. The patient is anesthetized, an incision is made to access the site, and a surgeon verifies that adhesions are present before severing them. One problem with adhesion surgery is that surgery itself can increase the risk of developing adhesions, and surgeons need to take care during adhesion surgery to protect the patient from potential risk factors.

After adhesion surgery, the patient's symptoms should resolve. It is possible for the adhesions to recur after surgery in some cases, and patients may be monitored for the early signs of recurrence. For some types of adhesions, options like physical therapy after surgery may be recommended to prevent the development of new scar tissue. Adhesions in the joints, like the shoulder and knee, can sometimes be prevented after surgery with the use of careful stretching and exercise to keep the limb mobile and flexible.


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