An enteric fistula is an abnormal tunnel that forms between part of the intestines and another part of the body. It can form after an individual has surgery, but it can happen without surgery in some cases, too.
The two more common kinds of enteric fistula are:
- Enterocutaneous fistula – This can be a tunnel between the intestine and the skin. it’s a serious condition that sometimes has to be treated in the hospital.
- Entero-enteric fistula – this can be a tunnel between one part of the intestines and another. The abnormal connection is between small intestine and small intestine, small intestine and large intestine, or large intestine and large intestine.
Enteric fistulas can even cause abnormal tunnels that connect with other body parts, like the uterus, bladder, or blood vessels. Those are less common and their symptoms and treatments are different from those of enteric fistulas described here.
The symptoms rely on the kind of fistula involved.
- Enterocutaneous fistulas can cause leakage of the intestines through an opening on the skin.
- Entero-enteric fistulas can cause a swollen, tender belly, fever, or diarrhoea.
Yes. Your Gastroenterologist should be able to tell if you have got it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam. But you may need tests that include:
- A CT scan – this can be a special kind of X-ray.
- A fistulogram – For this test, the Gastroenterologist injects a dye into one opening in the fistula and then takes an X-ray to determine where it goes.
Treatments can include:
- Fluids and medicines that go into a vein through a tube called an “IV”
- A tube (called a “catheter”) to assist drain any fluid collections or areas of infection
Some people need surgery to repair a fistula.
Several people have a colostomy for a short time while their body heals after a colectomy. This is often the case if the colectomy was done for an emergency. Most people do not need to have a colostomy for the rest of their life, but some do.
If you require a colostomy for only a short time, your doctor will do another surgery later to reconnect your colon. Then you can have bowel movements normally again.