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What is a Rectal Fistula?

A rectal fistula is a small channel or abscess that can develop between the end of the bowel and the skin surrounding the anus. This condition is also commonly called anal fistula.

What Causes Rectal Fistulas to Form?

If one of the small glands that are located just inside the anus becomes blocked, an infected abscess can form. This abscess will likely need to be surgically drained. But once it is drained, the abscess can develop into a fistula that connects the infected anal gland to an opening on the skin near the anus.

A rectal fistula is typically diagnosed when a medical professional sees an opening in the skin near a patient’s anus that is producing a bloody or smelly drainage. However, not all fistulas result in an opening.

Common Symptoms

Other rectal fistula symptoms can include:

  • Recurring anal abscesses
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Pain or swelling around the anus
  • Irritation around the anus due to constant drainage

Rectal Fistula Treatment Options

If you have been diagnosed with a rectal fistula, surgery will likely be necessary to treat the condition. The most common surgical procedure used is a fistulotomy, in which the length of the fistula is cut open to produce an open groove that heals from the inside out.

If your case is more complicated, you may need to have a special drain placed in the fistula for several weeks before corrective surgery takes place.

Choose Tampa General Hospital

The medical experts at Tampa General Hospital can diagnose and treat you if you’re suffering from anal and rectal conditions such as a rectal fistula. Our team of experts includes surgeons, gastroenterologists, physicians, nurses and other medical specialists who are all dedicated to ensuring you’ll get world-class care tailored to your specific and unique needs. Plus, our expertise speaks for itself: Tampa General Hospital is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation's best hospitals and highest ranked in Florida for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery.

Use Tampa General Hospital’s Physician Finder to find a gastroenterologist or call 1-800-833-3627.