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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


A fistula is a hole or abnormal connection between two organs of the body or between an organ and nearby skin. There are several types of fistulas treated at the Integrated Pelvic Health Program:

  • Anorectal fistulas: found between the anal canal and the area around the anal opening
  • Genitourinary fistulas: found between the vagina, rectum or bowel and the urinary tract
  • Rectovaginal fistulas: found between the rectum and the vagina
  • Radiation induced fistulas

Fistulas generally do not cause pain, but they can be disruptive to everyday life by allowing urine or stool (depending on the type of fistula) to pass between the organs. Genitourinary fistulas allow urine to pass between organs, which can cause constant urine leakage. Rectovaginal fistulae can allow feces to pass between the organs, causing, anal soiling problems or a foul-smelling discharge or gas coming from the vagina.

Although rare, fistulas can result from obstetrical trauma, prior surgery or pelvic radiation. Some fistulas can be treated conservatively with simple surgeries, while others may require a more complex, multidisciplinary approach, such as what is offered at the Integrated Pelvic Health Program.


Last UpdateDecember 6, 2011