Abdominal Pain, Adhesions from Surgery

Surgery on the belly (abdomen) can cause bands of fibrous scar tissue to form. These are called adhesions. This is the most common side effect of any abdominal surgery. Other conditions that can cause adhesions include Crohn's disease, peritonitis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. They can also develop after radiation treatment. Adhesions can form bands around the intestine and cause a partial or complete blockage of the intestinal tract (intestinal obstruction). A blocked intestine will need surgery.


Abdominal adhesions can cause these symptoms:

  • Severe pain, sudden or lasting (chronic)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Inability to pass gas or stool

Adhesions are more common in people who have had 1 or more abdominal surgeries. Diagnosis is made using blood tests, X-ray, CT scan, rectal exam, and (in women) pelvic exam. Abdominal adhesions are lifelong (permanent). They can be treated by surgery to remove the scar tissue. But this treatment may create more scar tissue. And the problem may come back.

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.

  • Don't eat whole-grain foods, whole fruits or vegetables, tough meats, seeds or nuts until your symptoms go away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. 

If X-rays were done, they'll be read by a radiologist. You'll be told if there are any changes.

Call 911

Call  911 if any of the following occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or having trouble waking up

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast heart rate

When to get medical advice

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

  • Pain gets worse or moves to the right lower belly

  • New or worsening vomiting or diarrhea

  • Belly swelling

  • Unable to pass stool for more than 3 days or feeling constipated with belly pain or swelling (even if it has been less than 3 days since you've passed stool)

  • New fever over 100.4ºF (38ºC), 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

  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding or missed period

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