577660 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Enterocutaneous Fistula

    (Gastrointestinal Fistula; Entero-enternal Fistula)

    Definition

    An enterocutaneous fistula is an abnormal connection between the intestines and the skin. Intestinal or stomach contents can leak through this connection. The contents may leak into another part of the body or outside of the body.
    Enterocutaneous Fistula
    exh61124
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes

    Most enterocutaneous fistulas develop as a complication of bowel surgery. Other causes include:

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of enterocutaneous fistula include:
    • History of radiation
    • Poor nutrition

    Symptoms

    If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to a fistula. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.
    • Leakage of intestinal contents from an abdominal wound onto the skin
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Signs of infection, such as fever, chills, and rapid heart rate
    • Dehydration

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a colon and rectal surgeon.
    Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

    Treatment

    A fistula may be able to heal on its own over 2-8 weeks. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
      Nutritional support may be needed while the fistula is healing:
      • You may need to drink and eat high energy food for a while.
      • Nutrition may need to be delivered through a tube connected to your stomach or intestine.
      • If your bowels needs to rest, nutrition may be given through your vein.
    • Antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent or control infection.
    • A drain may be attached to your wound to collect leakage from the fistula.
    • If the fistulas do not heal, then part of the intestine may need to be removed.

    Prevention

    There are no steps you can take to help prevent fistulas.

    RESOURCES

    American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org

    Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America http://www.ccfa.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada http://www.ccfc.ca

    References

    Cobb A, Knaggs E. The nursing management of enterocutaneous fistulae: a challenge for all. BrJCommunity Nurs . 2003;8;9:S32-8.

    Enterocutaneous fistula. UCSF Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/enterocutaneous%5Ffistula/. Accessed April 2, 2013.

    Pritts TA, Fischer DR, Fischer JE. Postoperative enterocutaneous fistula. Holzheimer RG, Mannick JA, editors. Surgical Treatment: Evidence-Based and Problem-Oriented. Munich: Zuckschwerdt; 2001. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6914/. Accessed April 2, 2013.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.