Rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the rectum and the vagina. Gas or stool may leak from the bowel into the vagina.
Healthy Wall Between Vagina and Rectum
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A rectovaginal fistula is caused by an injury to this area. It may be caused by physical trauma or a medical condition.
Factors that may increase your risk of rectovaginal fistula include: Crohn’s diseaseComplications following surgery to the perineum (area between vagina and rectum), vagina, rectum, or anusInjuries during childbirthRadiation treatment or cancer in the pelvic areaPerianal infection
Symptoms may include: Passing stool or gas via the vaginaInability to control bowel movementsFoul-smelling vaginal dischargePain during sexual intercoursePersistent pain in the pelvic area
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a colon and rectal surgeon.
Your body structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with: Anorectal ultrasound—a small wand-like instrument provides a video image of the rectum and anusMethylene enema—a tampon is placed in the vagina and methylene blue is placed into the rectum to identify movement of fluid from rectum to vagina
may be used to view a rectovaginal fistula that cannot be seen on physical exam
Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower colon (to rule out irritable bowel disease)
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Surgery is usually needed. It is done to close the opening between the rectum and vagina. Tissue may be taken from another part of the body as a graft. This tissue will help to close the fistula.
You may be given antibiotics if the area around the fistula is infected.
There are no current guidelines to prevent rectovaginal fistula.
Wheeless CR, Roenneburg ML. Rectovaginal fistula repair.
Atlas of Pelvic Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.atlasofpelvicsurgery.com/2VaginalandUrethra/14RectovaginalFistulaRepair/chap2sec14.html. Accessed February 2, 2010.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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