How are abdominal adhesions and intestinal obstructions diagnosed?
Abdominal adhesions cannot be detected by tests or seen through imaging techniques such as x-rays or ultrasound. Most abdominal adhesions are found during surgery performed to examine the abdomen. However, abdominal x-rays, a lower gastrointestinal (GI) series, and computerized tomography (CT) scans can diagnose intestinal obstructions.
- Abdominal x-rays use a small amount of radiation to create an image that is recorded on film or a computer. An x-ray is performed at a hospital or an outpatient center by an x-ray technician, and the images are interpreted by a radiologist—a doctor who specializes in medical imaging. An x-ray does not require anesthesia. The person will lie on a table or stand during the x-ray. The x-ray machine is positioned over the abdominal area. The person will hold his or her breath as the picture is taken so that the picture will not be blurry. The person may be asked to change position for additional pictures.
- A lower GI series is an x-ray exam that is used to look at the large intestine. The test is performed at a hospital or an outpatient center by an x-ray technician, and the images are interpreted by a radiologist. Anesthesia is not needed. The health care provider may provide written bowel prep instructions to follow at home before the test. The person may be asked to follow a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before the procedure. A laxative or an enema may be used before the test. A laxative is medication that loosens stool and increases bowel movements. An enema involves flushing water or laxative into the rectum using a special squirt bottle.
For the test, the person will lie on a table while the radiologist inserts a flexible tube into the person’s anus. The large intestine is filled with barium, making signs of underlying problems show up more clearly on x-rays.
- CT scans use a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create images. The procedure is performed at a hospital or an outpatient center by an x-ray technician, and the images are interpreted by a radiologist. Anesthesia is not needed. A CT scan may include the injection of a special dye, called contrast medium. The person will lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device where the x-rays are taken.