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Adhesions, Intra-Abdominal

Intra-abdominal adhesions are akin to spot-welds that occur between segments of intestine (usually small intestine) and between intestine and abdominal organs.

In a normal healthy horse, the surfaces of the intestine are slick. They have an extremely smooth and moist surface that easily glides over adjacent surfaces. Inflammation within the abdomen or on these surfaces (from any cause) results in roughening of this surface.

Intestinal handling at colic surgery causes some irritation to the surface, even with good surgical technique. This is far more serious when intestine is handled roughly or improperly.

Any other cause of inflammation of the intestinal surface also has the potential to cause adhesions. The healing process in any case causes fibrin to be laid down that causes the creation of an adhesion to adjacent surfaces. In some cases, adhesions do not interfere with intestinal function. In other cases, they do.

Post-operative adhesions are said to occur in over 20% of colic cases. This is a significant cause of post-operative colic in patients whose primary problem was fixed at surgery. Adhesions may form 5-7 days after surgery and may cause signs of colic within 7-14 days. If adhesions are to cause problems post-operatively, this is usually evident by 4-8 weeks after surgery.


  • Are there medications that can be added to the abdomen that reduce post-operative adhesion formation?
  • Will re-operation help the situation?

    Good surgical technique reduces the incidence of adhesions. However, like many other aspects of equine veterinary medicine, there is probably great individual variation among horses in their tendency to develop adhesions.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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