International Adhesions Society





Adhesion FAQs


dhesions are internal scars (synechiae) that connect organs and tissues that are not normally connected. They may form as a result of any kind of trauma – surgery, wounding, infection, radiation or other disease. Although almost everyone undergoing surgery will form adhesions, not everyone will develop problems, and in those that problems do occur, they may not happen for many years. Approximately one third of patients undergoing abdominal or pelvic surgery will be readmitted twice in the ten years following surgery, for a problem directly caused by adhesions or a problem that will be complicated by adhesions.

Adhesions can cause a variety of problems including infertility, bowel obstruction, pain, as well as prolonged subsequent surgeries with increased blood loss.

“Adhesions Related Disorder” (ARD), typified by the patient who presents with a constellation of recurrent bowel obstruction, chronic abdominal or pelvic pain, chronic diarrhea or constipation, a variety of psychosocial issues, and who has undergone a number of procedures in an attempt to diagnose and/or correct a sometimes unidentifiable underlying problem.

Somewhere in the late 1990’s, shortly after its inception, the International Adhesions Society coined the term “Adhesion Related Disorder” (ARD) as a result of its research it had started into the nature of the problems of adhesions, from the perspective of the patient. Having adhesions is about much more than bowel obstruction, pelvic or abdominal pain. It is about disturbed bowel function, malnourishment, painful defecation, painful urination, painful intercourse, and a misery made worse by the loneliness, hopelessness, frustration, desperation and thoughts of suicide for thousands of patients that strain family and work relationships to the limit and beyond.

Adhesions are an almost inevitable outcome of surgery. It has been said that adhesions are the single most common and costly problem related to surgery, and yet most people have not even heard the term. This lack of awareness means that, excluding infertility, many doctors are unable or unwilling to tackle the problems of adhesions, many insurance companies are unwilling to pay for treatment and many patients are left in misery. The good news is due to the efforts of the IAS and its members, that awareness about adhesions and ARD has improved greatly. But we still have much work to do.

Read Dr. David Wiseman's "A Patient's Guide to Adhesions and Related Pain", which describes adhesions, their treatment and their relationship to pain and bowel obstruction. In addition, stories from patients are featured to illustrate how adhesions (or suspected adhesions) affect their daily lives and how they cope with a sometimes-insurmountable problem.

A key lesson and source of comfort for patients with this problem is that they are not alone and the importance of mutual support among patients cannot be underestimated.
There are no easy answers as yet. In drawing attention to the human side of this problem, we hope to (begin to) educate patients and doctors about the range of treatments available, be they of a medical, surgical or psychological nature.

Another key breakthrough, again from our own research, was the realization that the ARD patient is a member of a much larger group of patients who, in varying degrees, combinations and sequences experience a range of symptoms and conditions including endometriosis, interstitial cystitis (IC), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bowel obstruction and chronic abdominal and/or pelvic pain.

Although ‘‘adhesions’’ may start out as a single, stand-alone entity, an adhesions patient may develop a number of related conditions (ARD) which renders those patients practically indistinguishable from patients with multiple symptoms originating from other abdominal or pelvic conditions. Read more about this research and why it was important to coin the term “Complex AbdominoPelvic and Pain Syndrome” (CAPPS), defined as:

“ a syndrome of nonmalignant origin consisting of a complex of symptoms of the abdomen or pelvis that includes pain, bowel, or bladder dysfunction of at least 6 months duration.”

Please review our large collection of links to find more information about adhesions and related disorders.

To Top