What are adhesions? If this question is floating through your mind, then you are in the right place!
September is Adhesion Awareness Month. I have first hand experience of the confusion on peoples faces when I mention the word “adhesions”. Let me get you up to speed with what they are, why they occur and how they impact people.
What are they?
Adhesions are an invisible cause of pain. They are fibrous bands of scar tissue which connect and stick organs and tissues together which normally should not be attached. In our abdominal cavity, organs have slippery surfaces in order to allow them to move over each other. This is especially important due to the nature of our digestive system, that moves and contracts in order to digest food. Unfortunately adhesions restrict this movement and can cause strangulation of the bowel or bowel obstructions which, ultimately, can be life threatening.
What can cause adhesions?
Adhesions are a common side effect of abdominal surgery. During abdominal surgery, tissues are usually cut or ripped in order to gain access to the abdominal cavity. After surgery is completed there will often be both internal and external wounds which need to heal. These wounds heal and form scar tissue. Normal scar tissue is not harmful and is a natural part of the bodies’ healing process. The issues occur when the scar tissue forms fibrous bands between organs or other tissues that it doesn’t need to. Adhesions can form from open surgery, keyhole surgery (though often fewer form), inflammation (due to gynaecological infections, ruptured appendix, abdominal infections etc), cesarean sections, to name a few.
If they’re so common, why have I never heard of them?
The reality is that most adhesions do not cause any symptoms. A huge proportion of people with them will never know they even have them, if this is you then you are one of the lucky ones! Adhesions are not dangerous in and of themselves. They only become dangerous when they cause damage to organs which inevitably causes pain and other symptoms.
As it stands there is currently no way of treating the adhesions in order to rid them completely. Surgery is an option – in order to cut the bands of scar tissue. However, it is hotly debated as to whether this is a good solution, as more surgery can cause more scar tissue. Often managing of symptoms can be the only way to help people with adhesions. For example pain management and dietary management.
I personally suffer from adhesions so this includes information from my own personal experience, remember everyone is different! Please be patient if you know someone who suffers from an adhesion related disorder. They may have specific requirements, have to cancel at the last minute or feel suddenly unwell.