Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Adhesions: Care Instructions

Main Content

Adhesions: Care Instructions

Picture of adhesions on the small intestine


Adhesions are scar tissue that forms between two structures or organs inside the body that are not normally connected to each other. The most common cause of adhesions is previous surgery in the belly.

Adhesions can cause pain and can partly or completely block your bowel (intestines).

If adhesions completely block your bowel, you'll need to stay in the hospital. Your doctor will try some treatments to unblock your bowel. If your symptoms don't get better, or if they get worse, your doctor will talk to you about surgery to remove the blockage and repair your bowel.

If the adhesions only block part of your bowel, you may not need surgery. You may need other treatments or tests. Or you may go home with instructions to not eat, to drink plenty of fluids, and watch for more symptoms.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow your doctor's instructions. These may include having only a clear liquid diet for a short time to avoid a complete blockage.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Put a heating pad set on low on your belly to relieve mild cramps and pain. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin. Do not go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.
  • You are vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.