Restorative proctocolectomy in patients with ulcerative colitis having a recto-vaginal fistula

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Recto-vaginal fistula is a rare complication of ulcerative colitis. There are few reports of restorative proctocolectomy carried out in patients with ulcerative colitis having a rectovaginal fistula. We report our experience with this condition.

Patients and methods

Between 1 January 1976 and 31 December 2001, 838 patients underwent restorative proctocolectomy for ulcerative colitis at one hospital. These included 400 women of whom 4 (1%) had an already present rectovaginal fistula. We reviewed all patients who presented with a rectovaginal fistula. These patients were contacted by telephone to establish function and satisfaction.


The mean age was 30.0 years (range 19–39 years). The mean age at onset of ulcerative colitis was 21.5 years (range 13–34 years). One patient was asymptomatic, the fistula being discovered at operation. In the other three patients the recto-vaginal fistula had occurred at a mean of 108 months (range 72–192 months) after the onset of ulcerative colitis. Three of four patients had had previous episodes of acute severe disease. Three patients had a narrow rectum with deep ulceration. The mean distance between the anorectal junction and the site of fistulation was 2.7 cm (range 0–7 cm). Three patients had a three-stage and one patient a two-stage procedure. Mean follow-up after closure of the loop ileostomy was 107 months (range17–276 months). All patients were treated successfully but 2 (50%) had a recurrence at 156 and 40 months after the closure of the loop ileostomy. One patient was diverted and the fistula was closed by a subsequent transanal repair and the other patient was treated with success by temporary loose seton technique. Two patients had excellent functional results whereas two other had some difficulties in continence. Nevertheless all patients were satisfied with the outcome.


Patients with ulcerative colitis and a recto-vaginal fistula can be successfully treated by restorative proctocolectomy, nevertheless they are at risk of late recurrence of the fistula.

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