Rectovaginal fistula refers to a highly distressing condition in which an opening develops between the lower part of the large intestine, the rectum, and the inside of the vagina. Though fairly uncommon, this condition can produce significant symptoms, including pain, loss of regular bodily functions, and embarrassment over the intimate nature of the pathology. Thankfully, the condition can be resolved through surgical intervention. Thrive Reconstructive Surgery is proud to assist patients through rectovaginal fistula repair procedures.
What Causes Rectovaginal Fistula?
There are a number of potential causes for rectovaginal fistula.
- Sometimes the condition can be caused by surgery to the pelvis or large intestine.
- Rectovaginal fistula may also be caused by bladder, vaginal, or rectal cancer.
- Inflammatory diseases, including diverticulitis or Crohn’s, may contribute.
- Pregnancy-related trauma may also be a factor in rectovaginal fistula.
Additionally, rectovaginal fistula may develop as a result of radiation treatment, particularly for cancers concentrated in the pelvis area. Thrive Reconstructive Surgery assists patients with rectovaginal fistula repair, regardless of the underlying cause of their pathology.
What are the Symptoms of Rectovaginal Fistula?
The symptoms associated with rectovaginal fistula can vary in severity depending on the size and location of the opening, but may include passage of gas or fecal matter into the vagina, a cramping or burning sensation, pain during sexual intercourse, bleeding from the vagina and rectum, ongoing vaginal infections, or diarrhea.
A rectovaginal fistula may be simple, with a diameter of less than 2.5 cm in the lower and middle vagina, or complex, measuring greater than 2.5 cm in the upper part of the vagina.
Diagnosing Rectovaginal Fistula
A rectovaginal fistula is typically diagnosed with a physical examination of the vagina. During this examination, the doctor will also check for infection, abscesses, and the occurrence of any tumors. An examination of the rectum may also be necessary, depending on the size and location of the fistula.
If the fistula cannot be found with a physical examination, several other tests can be used to confirm the diagnosis, including contrast tests, ultrasounds, and more.
Meet Your Doctors
The reconstructive surgeons at Thrive Reconstructive Surgery bring years of experience treating tough pathologies and extreme cases. In particular, we are known for our work in rectovaginal fistula repair. We always make it our top priority to provide the patient with total confidence in the quality of their treatment.
How Do You Treat Rectovaginal Fistula?
A rectovaginal fistula can be complicated to treat. One of the main reasons for this is that there tends to be a loss of blood flow to the surrounding tissue, which makes it far more difficult for the wound site to heal properly.
As such, our goal in treating rectovaginal fistula is always to close the opening with healthy, well-vascularized tissue, promoting long-term healing of the damaged area. We will most often do this by transplanting healthy tissue from one part of the body to the area between the rectum and vagina, ensuring some healthy blood flow and promoting the formation of healthy new tissue.
Our surgeons may accomplish this via the gracilis muscle flap procedure. The gracilis is one of the muscles in the thigh/groin region and is responsible for the movement of the hip and knee. We can remove the gracilis from the thigh while keeping it attached to its blood supply in the groin, enabling tissue repair with no loss of leg functionality.
Post-Repair and Recovery
The methods we employ at Thrive Reconstructive Surgery, are known for their high rate of success and their low rate of complication. We often provide successful results even for patients whose previous rectovaginal fistula repair attempts have failed.
With that said, there may be some side effects to the procedure, which can last for a few days or a few weeks. Some tenderness or pain in the thigh and groin is common. One of the effective ways to minimize this is to devote several days to resting and relaxing. Additionally, patients will be advised to refrain from strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least six weeks.
As you recover from rectovaginal fistula repair, it will also be important to care for your wound and to keep your treatment site clean. Your surgeon can provide you with more detailed instructions.
Medications may also be recommended to treat underlying inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s.
Seek Treatment for Rectovaginal Fistula
A rectovaginal fistula can lead to pain, embarrassment, and awkwardness. Help is available through reconstructive surgery. Thrive Reconstructive Surgery is a practice known for its work in rectovaginal fistula repair, and we would love to tell you more about the treatments available.
Make an appointment to learn more about rectovaginal fistula repair or our other reconstructive procedures.