What is a Rectal Fistula?


Abnormal excretory issues can cause patients a large amount of discomfort--both physically and psychologically. But they need not suffer in silence. A rectal fistula is a treatable condition which requires medical attention to properly correct. The exact origin, nature and symptoms of a rectal fistula can be rather confusing, but they need not be.

What is a Fistula?

A fistula is a medical term for any abnormal or atypical connection between a vessel, intestine or organ and any other object within the body. Fistulas can occur between a vein and an artery, the gut and the navel, the skin and the stomach, and a variety of other potential combinations. The cause of a fistula can be from infection, injury, inflammation or surgery.

What is a Rectal Fistula?

A rectal fistula, also referred to as an anal fistula, is an unnatural connection between the surface of the skin and the canal of the anus. Usually beginning as an abscess (a development of a collection of pus that appears as a result of infection), a fistula can develop upon a surgical or spontaneous opening of the original abscess.


Symptoms of a rectal fistula include a drainage or discharge of stool or pus somewhere in the region surrounding the anus. This discharge can lead to irritation of the surrounding skin, resulting in pain, general discomfort or itching. In addition to pus and stool, the fistula also can serve as a passageway for the release of gas.


Treatment for a rectal fistula involves surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove the passageway by excising a combination of the openings and the lining of the tract. This procedure is called a fistulectomy (where the entire tract is excised), or a fistulotomy (where only the openings and a small bit of the inside lining are removed). A doctor performs the procedure with lasers to reduce possible damage to adjacent tissue.


Although potentially embarrassing, you need medical attention to properly remedy a rectal fistula. Although recurrence of the original fistula is not uncommon, even with surgery, the success rate for surgery hovers around 80 percent.

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