Gastrointestinal fistula

Definition

A gastrointestinal fistula is an abnormal opening in the stomach or intestines that allows the contents to leak.

Causes

Most gastrointestinal fistulas occur after surgery. Other causes include:

Symptoms

Depending on where the leak is, these fistulas may cause diarrhea, and poor absorption of nutrients. Your body may not have as much water and fluids as it needs.

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatments may include:

Some fistulas close on their own after a few weeks to months.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the person's overall health and how bad the fistula is. People who are otherwise healthy have a very good chance of recovery.

Possible Complications

Fistulas may result in malnutrition and dehydration, depending on their location in the intestine. They may also cause skin problems and infection.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:


Review Date: 4/9/2018
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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