Rectovaginal Fistula

What is Rectovaginal Fistula?

A Rectovaginal Fistula (RVF) is an abnormality in the tissues that connect the intestines, rectum and vagina. As a result, fecal material and gas leak from the vaginal opening. It can result in infection, pain and odors. It can also greatly impact intimacy and cause emotional problems.

Possible causes are inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s, childbirth complications, cancer of the pelvic region, radiation therapy and surgical damage. A rectovaginal fistula can heal without treatment, but it usually requires surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Rectovaginal Fistula?

They symptoms depend on the severity of the fistula and the location. Symptoms may include:

  • Vaginal excretion of feces, pus and gas
  • Malodorous vaginal discharge
  • Chronic urinary tract and vaginal infections
  • Discomfort and pain in and around the vaginal area
  • Painful intercourse

How is Rectovaginal Fistula Treated?

The treatment of a vaginal fistula depends on the underlying cause, the location and the size of the opening. A physical exam, imaging, contrast tests and dye tests may be used to diagnosis the condition.

Treatment may include:

  • Keeping the vaginal area clean and dry
  • Irritant avoidance (e.g. tampons, scented products)
  • Wet wipe use instead of dry tissue paper
  • Cream or unscented non-medicated powder to ease and prevent irritation
  • Incontinence pads can be used to prevent garment soiling
  • Wearing comfortable loose-fitting bottoms to promote airflow and prevent irritation
  • Antibiotics to treat pre-surgical infection or for those with Crohn’s disease
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to promote healing without surgical repair
  • Biological tissue patching
  • Tissue graft patching
  • Anal sphincter repair
  • Surgical repair
  • Colostomy for stool diversion before surgery and after repair while healing
Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017