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Short-term outcomes of the surgical management of acquired rectourethral fistulas: does technique matter?

Authors Nfonsam, Mateka J, Prather, Marcet JE

Received 7 November 2011

Accepted for publication 22 February 2012

Published 30 January 2013 Volume 2013:5 Pages 47—51


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Valentine N Nfonsam,1 James JL Mateka,2 Andrew D Prather,2 Jorge E Marcet2

1Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA; 2Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

Background: Acquired rectourethral fistulas are uncommon and challenging to repair. Most arise as a complication of prostate cancer treatment. Several procedures have been described to repair rectourethral fistulas with varying outcomes. We review the etiology, management, and outcomes of patients with rectourethral fistulas at our institution.
Materials and methods: A retrospective review of patients undergoing repair of rectourethral fistulas was undertaken. Data were collected on patient demographics, fistula etiology, operative procedure, fecal and urinary diversion, and clinical outcome. Patients with urinary and/or fecal diversion underwent radiographic evaluation to confirm closure of the fistula prior to reversal of the diversion.
Results: Fistula repair was performed on 22 patients from 1999 to 2009. All the patients were male of an average age of 69 years (range: 39–82 years). All patients, except one, had prostate cancer. Fistula formation was associated with radiotherapy in 54.4% of patients, brachytherapy in 36.4% of patients, and with external beam radiation therapy in 18.2% of patients. Other causes included prostatectomy (seven patients, 31.8%), cryotherapy (two patients, 9.1%), and perianal abscess (one patient, 4.5%). Procedures performed for fistula repair included transanal repair (eleven patients, 50%), transperineal repair (five patients, 22.7%), transabdominal repair (three patients, 13.6%), and York–Mason repair (three patients, 13.6%). Fourteen patients (63.6%) had urinary diversion. Fecal diversion was performed in 16 (72.7%) patients. Five (22.7%) patients had had previous attempts at fistula repair. Of the 22 patients treated, repair was successful in 20 patients (91%). The average follow-up time was 6 months (range: 3–13 months).
Conclusion: The success rate of treatment of rectourethral fistulas is high, regardless of the procedure type. Patients with previous repair attempts tend to have less favorable outcomes. With high success rates, less invasive procedures should be attempted first.

Keywords: rectourethral, fistula, management, York–Mason, colostomy, cancer, transanal, transperineal, radiation, prostate

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