Abdominal Pain, Adhesions from Past Surgery (Child)

When surgery is done on the abdomen, bands of scar tissue may form between abdominal tissues and organs. These are called adhesions.

In many cases, adhesions cause no symptoms or problems and require no treatment. In other cases, adhesions may cause abdominal or pelvic pain that can range from mild to severe.

Anterior view of child's abdomen showing stomach and intestines. Inset shows adhesions.

Treatment will vary depending on the extent of the pain and the likelihood of problems, such as intestinal obstruction (blockage). Mild pain may be treated with medicines or diet changes alone. Severe pain may require treatment, such as surgery, to remove the adhesions. The healthcare provider will discuss all of your child’s treatment options with you as needed.

Home care

Medicines

Medicines may be prescribed to help relieve pain and inflammation. Follow all instructions when giving the medicines to your child.

General care

  • If prescribed, have your child eat a low-fiber diet as directed by the provider. Try applesauce, cooked cereals, or mashed potatoes.

  • Let your child rest when needed.

  • Encourage your child to take small bites when eating. They should also completely chew all food before swallowing.

  • Comfort your child as needed. Try to find positions that ease your child’s discomfort. A small pillow placed on the abdomen may help provide pain relief. Some children may be distracted from pain by listening to music or having someone read to them.

Watching for symptoms of intestinal blockage

When a child has abdominal adhesions, of particular concern is if the adhesions form around the intestine. This can cause severe pain and lead to partial or complete blockage (obstruction) of the intestinal tract. A complete intestinal blockage is a medical emergency. Surgery is needed right away to repair the problem.

You can help your child by watching for symptoms of intestinal blockage. These can include:

  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Swelling of the abdomen

  • Bloating

  • Inability to pass gas

  • Constipation

If your child has these symptoms, seek medical care right away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider as advised. If testing was done, you’ll be told the results and if there are any new findings that affect your child’s care. If surgery is needed, you’ll be told more about this and how to prepare your child for it.

When to seek medical advice

Unless your child’s healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if your child has any of the following. If the symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

  • Bloody stools

  • Problems eating or drinking

  • Belly pain gets work or child has vomiting that doesn't get better

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