A fistula is an abnormal connection that develops between two separate organs. For example, two common types are:
- Vesicovaginal fistula (a type of urogenital fistula, which affects the bladder) – An abnormal connection between the vagina and the bladder
- Rectovaginal fistula – An abnormal connection between the vagina and the rectum
Less commonly, fistulas can involve other pelvic organs such as the cervix, uterus, ureter, and bowel.
What are the causes of fistulas?
- Injuries to the bladder during pelvic surgery, such as a hysterectomy or cesarean section
- Pelvic radiation therapy for treatment of cancer
- Vaginal tears during childbirth or infected episiotomies after childbirth
- Prolonged labor, when the fetus presses against the birth canal and cuts off blood supply to a pelvic organ
- Conditions that cause inflammation in the bowel, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Trauma to the pelvic region, including motor vehicle accidents
What are the symptoms of fistulas?
Symptoms vary, depending on the location of the opening.
- A urogenital fistula can cause loss of bladder control. It may also cause the area to become infected and sore.
- A rectovaginal fistula may cause gas or stool to enter the vagina.
At the Desai Sethi Urology Institute, we understand the impact fistula symptoms can have on your life. Our Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgeons use the latest approaches to treat fistulas and give you relief from symptoms as quickly as possible. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to provide you with the best results.
Your doctor will use imaging tests to examine your pelvic area, such as X-rays or a CT scan that uses dye (contrast). The dye makes it easier to see tissues and locate the fistula.
If possible, your doctor will use nonsurgical, conservative measures to improve function. However, most fistulas need surgery to close the opening between two organs. Whenever possible, we use a minimally invasive approach, such as a repair through the natural opening of the vagina or a robotic-assisted procedure. These surgeries use tiny incisions, which can offer less pain and scarring and a quicker recovery.
During fistula surgery, your doctor removes scar tissue and makes sure the area is infection-free. They close the opening between the two organs. Sometimes, surgeons may use healthy tissue in the repair that’s close to the fistula to improve blood supply.
The risk of your fistula returning depends on how complex the fistula is and on how healthy your tissues are. A large opening, tobacco use, diabetes, inflammatory disease, and radiation therapy may increase the risk of the fistula returning after surgery.
Why Choose UHealth?
Pelvic health expertise at the Desai Sethi Urology Institute. We offer comprehensive care and services focused on women’s health and well-being. As an academic medical center, we use the latest research and leading-edge approaches to help you feel better and get back your life as quickly as possible.
Care designed for women. Our doctors specialize in women’s health. You get individual attention and treatment that’s customized to your needs, with personal attention from trained, compassionate experts who understand women’s needs.
A team approach. Your doctor works with a team of specialists to give you complete care. You can be confident you’re working with a highly trained team that’s focused on women’s health.
Leaders in minimally invasive surgery. We have some of the world’s most experienced surgeons for minimally invasive surgical procedures. Our surgeons are trained in surgeries that result in minimal scarring and a quicker recovery.
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