(Gastrointestinal Fistula; Entero-enternal Fistula)
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.
This is a potentially serious condition. You will need care from your doctor.
Most enterocutaneous fistulas develop as a complication of bowel surgery. Other causes include:
Factors that may increase your chance of enterocutaneous fistula include:
- History of radiation
- Poor nutrition
If you have any of these, do not assume they are due to a fistula. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a colon and rectal surgeon.
Tests may include the following:
- Barium swallow test—This is a series of x-rays of your throat. The barium helps make the throat images more clear.
- Barium enema
A fistula may be able to heal on its own over 2-8 weeks. Talk with your doctor about the best 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—part of the intestine may need to be removed
American Gastroenterological Association
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada
Carson-deWitt R. Crohn’s Disease. Ebsco EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=81. Updated November 2009. Accessed February 5, 2010.
Cobb A, Knaggs E. The nursing management of enterocutaneous fistulae: a challenge for all. BrJCommunity Nurs. 2003;8;9:S32-8.
Enterocutaneous fistula. Ebsco Dynamed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 19, 2009. Accessed February 4, 2010.
Last reviewed February 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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