Predisposing factors to post-operative adhesion development

Hum Reprod Update. Jul-Aug 2015;21(4):536-51. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv021. Epub 2015 May 1.


Background: Adhesion development is the most common sequelae of intra-abdominal and pelvic surgery and represents a significant, yet poorly understood, cause of morbidity among post-operative patients. It remains unclear, for example, exactly why adhesions form more frequently in certain tissues and/or patients, or at specific locations within them, as opposed to others. This review contributes to the growing knowledge pool by elucidating factors that potentially predispose to the development of adhesions. Given the strong correlation between a hypofibrinolytic state and adhesion formation, this review article will examine not only those factors that have been shown to directly predispose to adhesion development, but also those that are likely do so indirectly by means of altering the coagulation/fibrinolytic profile.

Methods: A literature search was performed using the PubMed database for all relevant English language articles up to February 2014. All of the identified articles were reviewed with particular attention to predisposing factors to post-operative adhesion development. In addition, the reference lists of each article were reviewed to identify additional relevant articles.

Results: Various factors have been shown to directly increase the risk of post-operative adhesion development; namely, certain genetic polymorphisms in the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, increased estrogen exposure, and endometriosis. In addition, numerous factors are known to increase the risk of fibrosis, therefore likely increasing the risk of adhesion development indirectly. These factors include genetic polymorphisms in plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and thrombin-activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, hyperglycemia, obesity, depression, binge alcohol consumption, anti-Parkinsonian medications, oral hormone therapy, pregnancy, and cancer.

Conclusions: The literature reviewed in this paper will help to direct future research aimed at understanding the mechanisms that underlie the association of certain factors with adhesion development. This information will be crucial in the creation of adequate preventative and treatment strategies.

Keywords: fibrosis; hemostasis; hypoxia; post-operative adhesions; predisposing factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Carboxypeptidase B2 / genetics
  • Endometriosis / complications
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein / genetics
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pelvis / surgery
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Postoperative Complications* / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications* / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications* / genetics
  • Tissue Adhesions* / epidemiology
  • Tissue Adhesions* / etiology
  • Tissue Adhesions* / genetics


  • Estrogens
  • IL1RN protein, human
  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
  • SERPINE1 protein, human
  • Carboxypeptidase B2