Bowel complications in abdominal wall

Severe bowel complications

A range of abdominal conditions can cause bowel complications. HCA UK explains when surgical treatment may be necessary.

What abdominal conditions cause bowel complications?

There is a range of abdominal conditions that can cause bowel complications, including hernias, abdominal adhesions and peritonitis.

Sometimes, non-surgical options can be enough to treat these conditions. However, if symptoms become more severe, your consultant may recommend surgical treatment.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of bowel complications? icon plus

    An abdominal hernia is a bulge that occurs when part of your abdomen pushes through a weakness in the abdominal wall. In rare cases, parts of the bowel can get caught in the hernia, causing a blockage known as strangulation or incarceration.

    Abdominal adhesions often occur after an infection or abdominal surgery when tissue and organs stick together. If the scar tissue causes your bowel to stick together it can become blocked, called a bowel obstruction.

    Peritonitis is when the inner lining of the tummy becomes infected. This can become serious if the infection causes damage to the stomach lining or if it enters your bloodstream.
  • ​How are abdominal wall complications diagnosed? icon plus

    If you have any of these conditions and you experience severe tummy pain or vomiting, it’s important to see a specialist or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital immediately.

    If you have a complete bowel obstruction or a strangulated bowel (as a result of abdominal adhesions), a strangulated hernia or if peritonitis (inflammation due to infection) has entered your bloodstream, these are classed as medical emergencies and a consultant will assess your needs to determine what surgery is needed.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    For a strangulated hernia, your consultant releases the trapped bowel and returns it to the abdominal cavity. The operation is performed by open or laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. It’s important that this is done before the tissue is permanently damaged.

    If you have complications as a result of abdominal adhesions, an operation to disconnect them (called adhesiolysis), is performed with keyhole surgery, where a few small cuts are made on your tummy.

    With peritonitis, your treatment will depend on what has caused the condition, the extent of the damage caused by the infection, and whether the infection has entered the bloodstream.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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