Adhesions (Scar Tissue)

What are adhesions?

Adhesions are scar tissue that sticks the intestine to the abdominal wall, to other loops of intestine, or to another organ. Adhesions can cause the intestine to twist, causing a blockage.

About 90% of adhesions arise after abdominal surgery. They occur after many different types of abdominal surgery, not just those that are IBD-related. Adhesions can also happen as a result of inflammation.

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Symptoms of adhesions

Symptoms of adhesions may include:
  • Chronic bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Altered bowel habits such as constipation or frequent loose stools
  • Nausea
  • Intestinal obstruction, which may cause the above symptoms
  • Female infertility
  • In females, painful sexual intercourse
  • Rectal bleeding and painful passing of stool during menstruation
Speak to your health care provider for more information. 

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Management of adhesions

There are currently no medications that are effective in the treatment of adhesions.

If the main symptom is abdominal cramps, it might be worthwhile to try a muscle relaxant, such as dicyclomine.

If the adhesion is the cause of constipation, increasing fibre intake generally does not help and it could make constipation worse. Low-residue diets (low fibre diets) may be recommended.

In some patients, surgery can break down the adhesions. However, surgery can also create new adhesions. Most surgeons avoid such operations unless absolutely necessary.

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