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Adhesions: Before Your Surgery

Adhesions on small intestine

What is surgery for adhesions?

Adhesions are scar tissue. They form between tissues or organs and cause them to stick together. Sometimes they can cause the bowel to get blocked (bowel obstruction). Surgery breaks up and removes this scar tissue.

The most common cause of adhesions in the belly or pelvis is previous surgery in that area.

You will be asleep during the surgery. You may have a nasogastric (NG) tube during the surgery. This goes through your nose and down into your stomach. The tube removes fluids and gas. This helps relieve pain and pressure.

There are two ways to do the surgery. You may have open surgery. This means the doctor makes a cut (incision) in your belly. Or you may have laparoscopic surgery. To do this type of surgery, the doctor puts a lighted tube and other surgical tools through small incisions in your belly. The tube is called a scope. It lets your doctor see your organs to do the surgery. In either surgery, the incisions leave scars that fade with time.

During the surgery, the doctor will look for adhesions. The doctor will also check your bowel to find places where it may be narrowed or blocked. Damaged sections of the bowel may be removed. The doctor will then put the healthy sections back together. In some cases, the doctor makes an opening in the skin on the belly and connects the bowel to that opening. This is called a colostomy or ileostomy. The opening in the skin is called a stoma.

If you only have adhesions removed, you may stay in the hospital for a few days. You may be able to go back to your normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks.

If the doctor had to reconnect sections of your bowel, you may stay in the hospital for up to a week. You may be able to go back to your normal routine in 2 to 4 weeks.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

If you have adhesions that partly or completely block the bowel (bowel obstruction), you may need surgery right away. You may not have time to prepare.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery usually takes 1 to 2 hours, but it can take longer.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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