After any type of abdominal surgery, bands of tissue called adhesions may form between abdominal tissues and organs. Normally, tissues and organs are slippery and move easily as the body moves. If adhesions form, they can make tissues and organs stick together.

Most adhesions do not cause problems. However, they can sometimes cause pain in the abdomen. Rarely, they can cause a part of the intestines to twist. This can cause symptoms such as

  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • nausea (vomiting)
  • bloating
  • loud sounds emanating from the intestines
  • abdominal swelling
  • inability to pass wind
  • constipation

If you have severe pain you should contact a doctor immediately, as this could be a signal of intestinal obstruction. You may require tests such as x-rays or analytical tests to check.

Often, the intestine is only partially blocked, and gets better following a short rest. This may mean not eating for a day or two and having fluids fed intravenously, or it may involve taking a liquid or low-residue diet.

A low-residue diet is high in protein, low in fiber, and can be more easily broken down into smaller parts by the digestive system. If the intestine is completely blocked, an urgent operation may be required to unblock it.

Most people do not need treatment for abdominal adhesions, as they tend not to cause problems. Surgery is the only way to break up the adhesions that cause pain and blockage. However, surgery may cause more adhesions, which is why this option is avoided whenever possible.