Abdominal adhesions are fibrous bands that form between tissues and organs, often as a result of injury during open abdomen surgery or a pelvic surgery.
Adhesions are considered as unavoidable consequence of an open abdominal surgery in men or a pelvic surgery in women. Since adhesions are expected post surgery, your doctor can examine your abdomen and rectum to diagnose development of adhesions.
Abdominal adhesions diagnosis
Ironically, no tests are available to diagnose adhesions, and adhesions cannot be seen through imaging techniques, such as x-rays or ultrasounds. In case of a woman, the doctor will do a pelvic exam, since the aim is to discover fibrous bands that might have formed between tissues or organs as a consequence of the previous surgery.
Adhesions developed from a previous surgery are usually confirmed only during the subsequent surgery. However, abdominal adhesions can kink, twist, or pull the intestines out of place, causing an intestinal obstruction, which can be seen through abdominal x-ray, barium contrast studies (also called a lower GI series), and computerized tomography (CT scan).
A complete intestinal obstruction can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention; often surgery is the only way to treat it.
Barium contrast study or lower GI series (GI stands for gastrointestinal series) is a series of x-rays of the rectum, colon and lower section of the small intestine.
CT scan is a painless procedure which, with the help of a computer generates cross-sectional views of abdominal anatomy to identify normal and abnormal structures and guide doctors in further treatment procedures.
Treatment and expected duration
Treatment for abdominal adhesions is neither necessary since adhesions don't usually cause problems, nor feasible since surgery is the only way to break adhesions that can cause severe pain, intestinal obstruction, or fertility problem. However, each surgery carries the risk of additional adhesions and thus, doctors try to avoid it in possible situations. Surgery becomes inevitable in case of complete intestinal obstruction. A partial obstruction can sometimes be relieved with a liquid or low-residue diet and may not require a surgery.
Adhesions can only be prevented by avoiding the surgery at the first place, however if the patient’s condition worsens despite of taking medication, surgery become the single option to treat him or her. In such a case, avoiding a surgery can be fatal for the patient. Doctors do not advise comprehensive treatment or surgical procedure for painless and risk-free abdominal adhesions.
Adhesions (usually harmless) are permanent since there is no guaranteed removal technique available. Only a subsequent surgery can remove currently present adhesions, which in turn may cause more adhesions, even more than the previous surgery. This is why; a surgery for abdominal adhesions is avoided until they don’t show any symptoms. If a person has been diagnosed with adhesions that are causing pain ranging from mild to severe, disrupting the intestinal structure or affecting one’s fertility, they can only be treated through a surgery. Usually adhesions, if harmless, aren’t treated and never interrupt normal body functioning.
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