What are adhesions?

Adhesions, also called scar tissue, can block or distort the fallopian tubes. Anything which leads to an inflammatory response such as surgery, endometriosis, or infection (including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or ruptured appendix) can trigger adhesion formation.

Can my adhesions be removed?

Pelvic Adhesions Image

Removal of adhesions can be performed by using laparoscopy or laparotomy. Some studies have shown that the removal of adhesions can help reduce pain and can even potentially improve the possibility of conceiving, versus no treatment at all. However, in some cases adhesions may reform even after they have been removed.

What types of surgeries can increase my risk of adhesions?

In most cases of adhesions, they form in the majority of women after gynecologic pelvic surgery. Studies have shown that adhesions formed in 55-100% of patients who had reproductive pelvic surgery, whether open or laparoscopic. For example:

  • myomectomy (surgery to remove fibroids)
  • tubal surgery (to remove an ectopic pregnancy)
  • surgery on the ovary (to remove cysts)
  • surgery for endometriosis

Even surgery to remove adhesions can lead to new adhesions. It can be a viscous cycle. Laparoscopic surgery (surgery done through several small incisions using a camera) has been known to cause less adhesion formation than laparotomy (surgery through one larger incision without use of a camera). Microsurgery (surgery using a microscope or magnifying glass, and special surgical technique) leads to less tissue damage and has a lower incidence of adhesion development than the traditional approach. Diagnostic procedures, which only involve a visual inspection of the organ(s), such as a diagnostic hysteroscopy or diagnostic laparoscopy, rarely lead to adhesions.

How can I reduce my risk of adhesions?

It starts with talking to your doctor and explaining your concerns about adhesions. There are techniques which can be used at the time of surgery to reduce the risk of developing adhesions. In addition to using microsurgery or laparoscopic techniques, prevention of infection is essential. During surgery, various products are used to inhibit adhesion formation, known as adhesion barriers. These include gauze-like materials placed over the tissue which dissolve to become a gelatinous layer to reduce the incidence of post-operative adhesions. This material is eventually absorbed by the body.