What Is the Difference between Adhesions and Scar Tissue?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 March 2019
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Adhesions and scar tissue are different yet similar. Scar tissue is the result of damaged tissue that has healed from a wound. There are different scar types that vary depending on many factors, including a person’s age and the location of the wound. Adhesions are a type of scar tissue that forms in tissue that joins parts of the body. These scars occur most commonly from injury to tissues.

Despite the fact that adhesions and scar tissue are caused by injury and are both made up of fibrous bands, they are both different and distinguishable from each other. The first main difference is the cause. Adhesions can be the result of inflammation, traumatic damage, and infection. They can also form following some surgical procedures, such as pelvic or abdominal surgery, that involve major organs or areas of the body. Scar tissue, on the other hand, forms as a result of a wound and can occur from cuts, burns, and surgical incisions. The wounds are punctures that are below the first layer of skin or internal tissue.


Another difference between scar tissue and adhesions is where they occur. Scar tissue can form on organs and skin when a puncture of tissue has occurred. As the wound heals, the tissue fibers grow differently and in one direction instead of randomly. Adhesions form internally only and are made of collagen bonds that resemble ropes that cover areas exposed to trauma. These ropes have the ability to not only cover areas of trauma but also connect to surrounding tissue.

Secondary symptoms caused by adhesions and scar tissue create a third distinguishing factor between the two. Adhesions shrink as they form and pull on the tissues they are connected to. This can cause restricted movement and chronic pain. Scar tissue does not typically cause troublesome symptoms unless it leads to a blockage or other similar problem. If a blockage occurs, serious damage can occur. For example, a blockage in the heart can lead to a reduction in blood flow and oxygen that circulates through the blood.

Adhesions and scar tissue that lead to damaging health problems can be treated with surgery. Although the damaging sections can be removed, there is a risk that additional adhesions or scar tissue can form in response. Most surgeries to repair damage caused by these abnormal bonds of fiber are successful in removing the problematic scar tissue or adhesion with minimal extra trauma.


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Post 1

In 2007 after having spine surgery, my esophagus was torn.

They operated again and placed a feeding tube. Tissue grew around it and when they took it out, the pain began. Now I can barely stand or sit without pain. The pain goes around the middle and is most severe around my rib cage. The doctors said they can't help me. They won't give me anything for pain.

I also had a hysterectomy and a fusion of my lumbar spine. If I have adhesions, could this be fatal if it wraps around my ribs? They found a density in my left lung but said it wasn't anything. Can someone give me an answer?

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