DefinitionAdhesions are bands of scar-like tissue that form between two surfaces inside the body and cause them to stick together.Alternative NamesPelvic adhesion; Intraperitoneal adhesion; Intrauterine adhesionCausesAs the body moves, tissues or organs inside are normally able to shift around each other. This is because these tissues have slippery surfaces. Inflammation (swelling), surgery, or injury can cause adhesions to form and prevent this movement. Adhesions can occur almost anywhere in the body, including:Joints, such as the shoulderEyesInside the abdomen or pelvisAdhesions can become larger or tighter over time. Problems may occur if the adhesions cause an organ or body part to:TwistPull out of positionBe unable to move normallyThe risk of forming adhesions is high after bowel or female organ surgeries. Surgery using a laparoscope is less likely to cause adhesions than open surgery.Other causes of adhesions in the abdomen or pelvis include:Appendicitis, most often when the appendix breaks open (ruptures)CancerEndometriosisInfections in the abdomen and pelvisRadiation treatmentAdhesions around the joints may occur:After surgery or traumaWith certain types of arthritisWith overuse of a joint or tendonSymptomsAdhesions in joints, tendons, or ligaments make it harder to move the joint. They may also cause pain.Adhesions in the belly (abdomen) may cause a blockage of the intestines. Symptoms include:Bloating or swelling of your bellyConstipationNausea and vomitingNo longer being able to pass gasPain in the belly that is severe and crampyAdhesions in the pelvis may cause chronic or long-term pelvic pain.Exams and TestsadvertisementMost of the time, the adhesions cannot be seen using x-rays or imaging tests.Hysterosalpingography may help diagnose adhesions inside the uterus or Fallopian tubes.X-rays of the abdomen, barium contrast studies, and CT scans may help diagnose a blockage of the intestines caused by adhesions.Endoscopy (a way of looking inside the body using a flexible tube that has a small camera on the end) may help diagnose adhesions:Hysteroscopy looks inside the uterusLaparoscopy looks inside the abdomen and pelvisTreatmentSurgery may be done to separate the adhesions. This can let the organ regain normal movement and reduce symptoms. However, the risk for more adhesions goes up with more surgeries.Depending on the location of the adhesions, a barrier may be placed at the time of surgery to help reduce the chance of the adhesions returning.Outlook (Prognosis)The outcome is good in most cases.Possible ComplicationsAdhesions can cause various disorders, depending on the tissues affected.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.Adhesions inside the uterine cavity, called Asherman syndrome, can cause a woman to have irregular menstrual cycles and be unable to get pregnant.Pelvic adhesions that involve scarring of the fallopian tubes can lead to infertility and reproductive problems.Abdominal and pelvic adhesions can cause chronic pain.When to Contact a Medical ProfessionalCall your health care provider if you have:Abdominal painAn inability to pass gasNausea and vomiting that do not go awayPain in the belly that is severe and crampyReferencesMunireddy S, Kavalukas SL, Barbul A. Intra-abdominal healing: gastrointestinal tract and adhesions. Surg Clin N Am. 2010;90:1227-1236.Kulaylat MN, Dayton, MT. Surgical complications. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 13.Paine R. Rehabilitation and therapeutic modalities: a language of exercise and rehabilitation. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drezs Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 5 section A.Review Date:2/24/2014Reviewed By:Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.