Understanding Lysis of Adhesions

Lysis of adhesions is a surgery to cut bands of tissue that form between organs. These bands are called adhesions. They are often caused by scar tissue that formed after an earlier surgery. Adhesions can connect organs to each other. This can cause severe pain and stop organs from working well.

Outline of woman showing stomach and intestines. Inset shows adhesions.

 How to say it

LY-sihs ad-HEE-shuhnz

Why lysis of adhesions is done

Adhesions can cause severe, ongoing pain. Cutting the adhesions helps ease this pain. Adhesions can also cause blockage of the intestines. This blockage can lead to serious symptoms, such as severe pain and vomiting. It can also cause long-term (permanent) damage to the intestines. It can even be fatal. You need surgery to prevent or treat these problems. Adhesions in the pelvis can also cause infertility in women.

How lysis of adhesions is done

Lysis of adhesions may be done using a method called laparoscopy. This method uses a few small cuts (incisions) in your belly (abdomen). Or it may be done as open surgery, with a large cut.  

  • You are given medicine (general anesthesia). This puts you into a deep sleep through the procedure.

  • For a laparoscopy, the healthcare provider makes 2 to 4 small incisions in your belly. A long, thin, lighted tube (laparoscope) with a camera on the end is placed in one of the cuts. The tube sends pictures of your belly to a video screen. This lets your healthcare provider see inside your belly. They put tiny surgical tools through the other small cuts. The provider fills your belly with carbon dioxide. This gas makes more room in your belly so the provider can see and work more easily.

  • If open surgery is done, the provider makes a large cut in your belly. The laparoscope is not used.

  • The provider cuts and removes the adhesions. This lets the organs move more freely.

  • When the surgery is done, the scope and other tools are removed. The cuts are closed.

Risks of lysis of adhesions

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Incisional hernia

  • Damage to abdominal organs

  • Damage to the intestine

  • Need to switch to open surgery

  • Return of the adhesions

  • Risks of anesthesia

  • Death (rare)

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2022
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