Practice patterns regarding management of rectovaginal fistulae: A multicenter review from the fellows' pelvic research network

Susan H. Oakley, Heidi W. Brown, Ladin Yurteri-Kaplan, Joy A. Greer, Monica L. Richardson, Amos Adelowo, Fiona M. Lindo, Kristie A. Greene, Cynthia S. Fok, Nicole M. Book, Cristina M. Saiz, Leon N. Plowright, Heidi S. Harvie, Rachel N. Pauls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives Rectovaginal fistulae (RVFs) are often debilitating and there are no established treatment algorithms. We sought to describe current diagnosis and management strategies for RVFs across the United States. Methods This institutional review board-approved multicenter retrospective study included 12 sites. Cases were identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes during a 5-year period. Demographics, management, and outcomes of RVF treatment were collected. Results Three hundred forty-two charts were identified; 176 (52%) met criteria for inclusion. The mean (SD) age was 45 (17) years. Medical history included hypertension (21%), cancer (17%), Crohn disease (11%), and diabetes (7%). Rectovaginal fistulae were often associated with obstetric trauma (42%), infection/inflammation (24%), and cancer (11%). Overall, most RVFs were primary (94%), small (0.5-1.5 cm; 49%), transsphincteric (31%), and diagnosed via vaginal and rectal (60%) examination. Eighteen percent (32/176) were initially managed conservatively for a median duration of 56 days (interquartile range, 29-168) and 66% (21/32) of these resolved. Almost half (45%) of RVFs treated expectantly were tiny (<0.5 cm). Eighty-two percent (144/176) of subjects were initially managed surgically and 81% (117/144) resolved. Procedures included simple fistulectomy with or without Martius graft (59%), transsphincteric repair (23%), transverse transperineal repair (10%), and open techniques (8%), and 87% of these procedures were performed by urogynecologists. Conclusions In this large retrospective review, most primary RVFs were treated surgically, with a success rate of more than 80%. Two thirds of RVFs managed conservatively resolved spontaneously, and most of these were tiny (<0.5 cm). These success rates can be used in counseling to help our patients make informed decisions about their treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-128
Number of pages6
JournalFemale Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 9 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.


  • expectant management
  • fistulectomy
  • rectovaginal fistulae
  • surgical management


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