A urogenital fistula is an abnormal connection between the female genital tract and the bladder, urethra or a ureter. The vagina is susceptible to fistulas due to its close proximity to the urinary system. There are several different types of urogenital fistulas, and they are named according to the origin of the defect. The most common types include vesicovaginal, urethrovaginal and ureterovaginal fistulas.
Causes of Urogenital FistulasThe most common cause of this condition is a complication of surgery performed to treat a bladder or vaginal issue. Other abdominal surgical procedures that can lead to fistula formation include hysterectomies and cesarean sections. They can also develop as a side effect of gynecological cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy. Injuries to the pelvic organs are a less common cause of urogenital fistulas. In some cases, they can develop in patients with a bowel condition, such as Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis.
Symptoms of Urogenital FistulasThe main symptom of a urogenital fistula is the continuous passage of urine out the urogenital tract. Abdominal pain, irritation in the vulvar area and frequent urinary tract infections are other common symptoms.
Diagnosis of Urogenital Fistulas
The first step in the diagnostic process is usually a review of the patient’s medical history to see if any risk factors, such as recent surgery, an infection or pelvic radiation treatment, are present. Next, a physician will perform a pelvic exam to check for visible signs of a fistula.
The patient may also be asked to undergo one or more of the following tests:
- A cystoscopy to look for bladder or urethra damage
- A dye test to see if fluid leaks from the bladder to the vagina
- A pelvic MRI to identify the location of a fistula
- A CT urogram to scan the vagina and urinary tract
Treatments for Urogenital Fistulas
Some smaller urogenital fistulas may heal on their own or after a catheter is inserted into the bladder to drain urine. A special glue or a plug made of natural proteins may also be used to seal the fistula until it heals. For larger fistulas, surgery is usually necessary to close the opening.
Urogenital fistulas are among the many female urology problems treated by the experienced specialists at Tampa General Hospital.