CONDITIONS

Abdominal Adhesions and Bowel Obstruction

Abdominal adhesions are bands of tissue that form between the tissues and organs in the abdomen. Normally, internal tissues and organs have slippery surfaces, which allow them to shift easily as the body moves. Adhesions cause tissues and organs to stick together.

The intestines are part of the digestive system and so these abdominal adhesions can cause obstructions in the intestines.

Although most adhesions cause no symptoms or problems, others can cause chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. Adhesions are also a major cause of intestinal obstruction and female infertility.

1Causes
Abdominal surgery is the most frequent cause of abdominal adhesions. Almost everyone who undergoes abdominal surgery develops adhesions; however, the risk is greater after operations on the lower abdomen and pelvis, including bowel and gynecological surgeries. Adhesions can become larger and tighter as time passes, causing problems years after surgery.

Surgery-induced causes of abdominal adhesions include:

  • tissue incisions, especially those involving internal organs
  • handling of internal organs
  • drying out of internal organs and tissues
  • contact of internal tissues with foreign materials, such as gauze, surgical gloves, and stitches
  • blood or blood clots that were not rinsed out during surgery
    A less common cause of abdominal adhesions is inflammation from sources not related to surgery, including:
    • appendicitis - particularly appendix rupture
    • radiation treatment for cancer
    • gynecological infections
    • abdominal infections
2Complications
How can abdominal adhesions cause intestinal obstruction?

Abdominal adhesions can kink, twist, or pull the intestines out of place, causing an intestinal obstruction. An intestinal obstruction partially or completely restricts the movement of food or stool through the intestines. A complete intestinal obstruction is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention and often surgery.

How can abdominal adhesions cause female infertility?

Abdominal adhesions cause female infertility by preventing fertilized eggs from reaching the uterus, where foetal development takes place. Adhesions can kink, twist, or pull out of place the fallopian tubes, which carry eggs from the ovaries-where eggs are stored and released-to the uterus.
3Symptoms
Although most abdominal adhesions go unnoticed, the most common symptom is chronic abdominal or pelvic pain. The pain often mimics that of other conditions, including appendicitis, endometriosis, and diverticulitis.

Symptoms of an intestinal obstruction include:

  • severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • vomiting
  • bloating
  • loud bowel sounds
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • inability to pass gas
  • constipation
4Diagnosis
No tests are available to diagnose adhesions, and adhesions cannot be seen through imaging techniques such as x -rays or ultrasound. Most adhesions are found during exploratory surgery. An intestinal obstruction, however, can be seen through abdominal x rays, barium contrast studies-also called a lower GI series-and computerized tomography.
5Treatment
Treatment for abdominal adhesions is usually not necessary, as most do not cause problems. Surgery is currently the only way to break adhesions that cause pain, intestinal obstruction, or fertility problems. More surgery, however, carries the risk of additional adhesions and is avoided when possible.

A complete intestinal obstruction usually requires immediate surgery. A partial obstruction can sometimes be relieved with a liquid or low-residue diet. A low-residue diet is high in dairy products, low in fiber, and more easily broken down into smaller particles by the digestive system.
6Prevention
Abdominal adhesions are difficult to prevent; however, surgical technique can minimize adhesions.

Laparoscopic surgery avoids opening up the abdomen with a large incision. Instead, the abdomen is inflated with gas while special surgical tools and a video camera are threaded through a few, small abdominal incisions. Inflating the abdomen gives the surgeon room to operate.

If a large abdominal incision is required, a special film-like material (Seprafilm) can be inserted between organs or between the organs and the abdominal incision at the end of surgery. The film-like material, which looks similar to wax paper, is absorbed by the body in about a week.

Other steps during surgery to reduce adhesion formation include using starch- and latex-free gloves, handling tissues and organs gently, shortening surgery time, and not allowing tissues to dry out.

Hospital

Operating from the new state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary facility equipped with only the most advanced medical technology,

Equipment

As one of only two such robots in the Western Cape, Dr Kavin operates from a hospital boasting Robotic Surgery capabilities,

Technique

As a surgeon with adept skill in minimally invasive techniques, Dr Kavin opts for laparoscopic keyhole surgery whenever possible.

Expertise

Dr Bruce Kavin is a General Surgeon with particular expertise in Endocrine, Colorectal and Gastrointestinal Surgery and Surgical Oncology.

parallax background