Staging Rectourinary Fistulas to Guide Surgical Treatment

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Surgical management for rectourinary fistulas remains a reconstructive challenge. There are few guidelines to direct the surgeon to the most successful and least morbid technique. We developed a rectourinary fistula staging system that allows selection of the most appropriate technique for the patient. We present the details of the staging system and surgical outcomes.

Materials and Methods

From July 1999 to July 2005 we treated 14 male patients with rectourinary fistula. Mean patient age was 68 years (range 62 to 73). Etiology was rectal injury during open radical prostatectomy in 5 patients, laparoscopic prostatectomy in 1, radiation induced fistula for prostate cancer treatment (brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy) in 2, neoadjuvant external beam radiation therapy in 2, ischial decubitus ulcer in 3 with spinal cord injury, and cryotherapy and external beam radiation therapy in 1. Cases were staged as stage I—low (less than 4 cm from anal verge and nonirradiated), stage II—high (more than 4 cm from anal verge and nonirradiated), stage III—small (less than 2 cm irradiated fistula), stage IV—large (more than 2 cm irradiated fistula) and stage V—large (ischial decubitus fistula). Diverting colostomy was performed for stages III to V 6 weeks before definitive therapy.


Patients were discharged home after 48 hours. A 22Fr urethral catheter maintained bladder drainage for 3 weeks until cystogram confirmed rectourinary fistula closure. Complications were superficial wound infection and postoperative reexploration of the gracilis flap due to bleeding in 1 case each. All patients were cured after a single operation.


The surgical challenges of a variety of rectourinary fistula repairs can be managed with minimal morbidity and a high success rate using proper staging to guide urinary tract reconstruction.

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