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Abdominal Pain, Adhesions from Surgery

Surgery on the abdomen can cause bands of fibrous scar tissue (also known as adhesions) to form. This is the most common side effect of any abdominal surgery. Adhesions can form bands around the intestine and cause a partial or complete blockage of the intestinal tract (“intestinal obstruction”).  A blocked intestine requires surgery.

Symptoms

Abdominal adhesions can cause these symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain, acute or chronic

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Inability to pass gas or stool

Adhesions are more common in people who have had one or more abdominal surgeries. Diagnosis is made using blood tests, X-ray, CT scan, rectal exam, and (in women) pelvic exam. Abdominal adhesions are permanent. They can be treated by surgery to remove the scar tissue. However, this treatment may create more scar tissue, and the problem may reoccur.

Pelvic adhesions can cause female infertility.

Home care

  • Rest as needed, until feeling better.

  • Eat a diet low in fiber (called a low-residue diet). Foods allowed include refined breads, white rice, fruit and vegetable juices without pulp, tender meats. These foods will pass more easily through the intestine.

  • Avoid whole-grain foods, whole fruits and vegetables, tough meats, seeds and nuts until your symptoms go away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. 

If X-rays were done, they will be read by a radiologist and you will be notified if there are any changes.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain gets worse or moves to the right lower abdomen

  • New or worsening vomiting or diarrhea

  • Swelling of the abdomen

  • Unable to pass stool for more than 3 days

  • New fever over 100.4º F (38º C), or rising fever

  • Blood in vomit or bowel movements (dark red or black color)

  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting

  • Chest, arm, back, neck or jaw pain

  • (In women): Unexpected vaginal bleeding or missed period

 

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