Adhesion

Alternative names
Pelvic adhesion; Intraperitoneal adhesion; Intrauterine adhesion

Definition
Adhesions are fibrous bands of scarlike tissue that form between two surfaces inside the body.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Inflammation, surgery, or injury can cause tissues to bond to other tissue or organs, much like the process of forming scar tissue. Sometimes, fibrous bands (adhesions) can form between the two surfaces. Abdominal surgery, endometriosis, attacks of appendicitis, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can also cause intraperitoneal adhesions.

Depending on the tissues involved, adhesions can cause various disorders. In the eye, adhesion of the iris to the lens can lead to glaucoma. In the intestines, adhesions can cause partial or complete bowel obstruction.

Intrauterine adhesions occur often enough that they have a name of their own - Asherman syndrome. Pelvic adhesions can lead to infertility and reproductive problems.

Symptoms

See the associated disorders.

Signs and tests

Physical examination varies depending on the location of the adhesion. Various procedures, such as a laparoscopy for suspected pelvic adhesions, hysteroscopy, or hysterosalpingography, may be recommended.

Treatment

Surgery may be performed to separate the adhesions. This is often sufficient to allow normal movement of the organ and to reduce the symptoms caused by the adhesion. However, the risk for more adhesion increases as the number of surgeries increases.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome is usually favorable.

Complications

Glaucoma, infertility, and bowel obstruction are possible complications of adhesions.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you are experiencing abdominal pain or unexplained fever.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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