A fistula is an abnormal communication or passageway between two epithelial surfaces, meaning between the surfaces of our body. In human anatomy, a fistula typically refers to an abnormal connection between two hollow spaces that normally do not communicate, such as the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, or urinary tract. Fistulas can also occur between solid organs, such as the bladder and skin.
Fistulas are formed due to sores and ulcers inside internal organs or body walls. This is mainly due to chronic conditions leading to an inflammatory response in the body. Although fistulas can occur anywhere in the body, they are most common in the lower gastrointestinal tract. When fistulas form in this part of the body, they are often associated with Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel disorders.
The most common type of fistula is a fistula-in-ano, which is an abnormal connection between the rectum and anus. Other kinds of fistulas include those involving the bladder, intestine, kidney, or urethra. Fistulas can also occur in the blood vessels, cartilage, joint capsules, lymph nodes, skin, or tendons.
Signs and Symptoms
Just like an abscess, a fistula presents similar signs and symptoms. Pain, fever, and chills are the main complaints of anyone with a fistula.
Treatment for both fistulas and abscesses typically involves antibiotics and drainage of the affected area. Treatment for fistulas typically involves surgery to close off the abnormal connection. In some cases, fistulas can also be treated with medications or other therapies. Minimal access and minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery can be done to close a fistula. With proper treatment, most patients with fistulas or abscesses fully recover.
However, complications such as sepsis can occur in some cases and may be life-threatening. Treatment for fistulas should be started as soon as possible with an experienced surgeon to minimise the risk of complications.