Attenuation of postoperative adhesions using a modeled manual therapy

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 2;12(6):e0178407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178407. eCollection 2017.


Postoperative adhesions are pathological attachments that develop between abdominopelvic structures following surgery. Considered unavoidable and ubiquitous, postoperative adhesions lead to bowel obstructions, infertility, pain, and reoperations. As such, they represent a substantial health care challenge. Despite over a century of research, no preventive treatment exists. We hypothesized that postoperative adhesions develop from a lack of movement of the abdominopelvic organs in the immediate postoperative period while rendered immobile by surgery and opiates, and tested whether manual therapy would prevent their development. In a modified rat cecal abrasion model, rats were allocated to receive treatment with manual therapy or not, and their resulting adhesions were quantified. We also characterized macrophage phenotype. In separate experiments we tested the safety of the treatment on a strictureplasty model, and also the efficacy of the treatment following adhesiolysis. We show that the treatment led to reduced frequency and size of cohesive adhesions, but not other types of adhesions, such as those involving intraperitoneal fatty structures. This effect was associated with a delay in the appearance of trophic macrophages. The treatment did not inhibit healing or induce undesirable complications following strictureplasty. Our results support that that maintained movements of damaged structures in the immediate postoperative period has potential to act as an effective preventive for attenuating cohesive postoperative adhesion development. Our findings lay the groundwork for further research, including mechanical and pharmacologic approaches to maintain movements during healing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tissue Adhesions / prevention & control*