When Is Surgery Needed for Fistula?

Fistulas are abnormal holes connecting two or more body cavities and most commonly affect the bladder, vagina, rectum or intestinal tract.

An obstetric vaginal fistula can be caused by prolonged and or obstructed labor that causes tissue death in the soft tissue around the pelvic bone resulting in a hole forming between the bladder and vagina and/or between the rectum and vagina.

Because of the risk of infection and abscesses involved with fistulas, robotic surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery is often the best option to ensure a full recovery. For very small or mild fistulas, more conservative measures such as catheterization, medical devices or lifestyle adjustments may be recommended as a part of your course of treatment. Your specialist will make the best recommendation for you depending on the location and severity of your fistula.

Preparing for Fistula Repair Surgery

Fistula repair is performed under general anesthesia, so you need to prepare to have transportation arranged to and from the facility. Once you come out of surgery, you’ll be sore and somewhat disoriented from the anesthesia. Depending on your current state of health, your surgeon may recommend some preparatory measures prior to surgery:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Stopping blood thinning medication temporarily
  • Ordering tests to ensure cardiac health
  • Certain blood tests
  • Light exercise
  • Short-term fasting prior to surgery

Speak to your surgeon or care team specialist about preparing for surgery and don’t stop any medications or health routines before being directed to do so.

Recovery After Fistula Repair

Often, you’ll be able to go home the same day as your procedure.

You may be required to wear a urinary catheter for a period of time following surgery to ensure proper bladder and urethral function. In some cases, the catheter may be removed before you go home following surgery. You may need to take stool softeners and continue catheterization for a period following surgery.

Today’s fistula surgery is performed as minimally invasive outpatient surgery and is highly effective and safe, but there are always risks involved with any surgery. Some of the risk factors and side effects associated with fistula repair include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Bloating
  • Sexual discomfort
  • Scar tissue
  • Infection
  • Damage to the bowel (very rare)

If you experience any of these after fistula surgery, contact your care specialist.

How Advanced Gynecology Can Help

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with fistula, or if you’re experiencing some of its telltale signs, Advanced Gynecology is here for you.

Our board-certified team of women’s health experts are ready to help you with a range of care options and medical procedures. We will counsel you about the best options for you and your health.

For more information, schedule an appointment today or call 706-389-9228 to speak with one of our patient coordinators.

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