Peritoneal adhesions: etiology, pathophysiology, and clinical significance. Recent advances in prevention and management

Dig Surg. 2001;18(4):260-73. doi: 10.1159/000050149.


Aim: To summarize the most common etiologic factors and describe the pathophysiology in the formation of peritoneal adhesions, to outline their clinical significance and consequences, and to evaluate the pharmacologic, mechanical, and surgical adjuvant strategies to minimize peritoneal adhesion formation.

Methods: We performed an extensive MEDLINE search of the internationally published English literature of all medical and epidemiological journal articles, textbooks, scientific reports, and scientific journals from 1940 to 1997. We also reviewed reference lists in all the articles retrieved in the search as well as those of major texts regarding intraperitoneal postsurgical adhesion formation. All sources identified were reviewed with particular attention to risk factors, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, various methods, and innovative techniques for effectively and safely reducing the formation of postsurgical adhesions.

Results: The formation of postoperative peritoneal adhesions is an important complication following gynecological and general abdominal surgery, leading to clinical and significant economical consequences. Adhesion occur in more than 90% of the patients following major abdominal surgery and in 55-100% of the women undergoing pelvic surgery. Small-bowel obstruction, infertility, chronic abdominal and pelvic pain, and difficult reoperative surgery are the most common consequences of peritoneal adhesions. Despite elaborate efforts to develop effective strategies to reduce or prevent adhesions, their formation remains a frequent occurrence after abdominal surgery.

Conclusions: Until additional information and findings from future clinical investigations exist, only a meticulous surgical technique can be advocated in order to reduce unnecessary morbidity and mortality rates from these untoward effects of surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Laparoscopy / adverse effects
  • Peritoneal Diseases / etiology*
  • Peritoneal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peritoneal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Peritoneal Diseases / surgery
  • Postoperative Complications* / physiopathology
  • Suture Techniques
  • Tissue Adhesions / etiology
  • Tissue Adhesions / prevention & control