There are many treatment options for genitourinary fistulas.
The human genitourinary system consists of a network of organs and vessels that are devoted to, among other things, eliminating waste products, regulating homeostasis, and promoting reproduction. Included in the urinary system organs are the kidneys, urinary bladder, ureter, and urethra.
The kidneys filter wastes from the bloodstream while preserving valuable materials. They also collect urine, which they then send to the ureters.
Ureters are tubes that funnel urine from the kidneys to a collection point called the urinary bladder.
The bladder is a flexible organ that is capable of stretching in response to fluid accumulation. When full, the bladder voids urine through the urethra.
The urethra is a tube of tissue that runs from the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In males, it passes through the penis.
Members of the genital system include the sex glands. In males, these are the testes and prostate glands, and in females the ovaries. In addition, the uterus and vagina serve as vital parts of the female reproductive system.
Disease or injury can cause holes or passages in parts of the genitourinary system. These holes are called fistulas, and they can connect organs or vessels with one another. When this occurs, it can allow the improper and unhealthy flow of waste fluids from one organ to another.
An example is the common female issue called vesicovaginal fistula. This condition is an abnormal connection between the urinary bladder and vagina. Left untreated, this can cause urine to discharge uncontrollably through the birth canal. Other common fistulas include:
Physical trauma, infections, and diseases are all common causes of genitourinary fistulas. On the physical spectrum, sudden and heavy blunt force traumas or penetrating strikes can both cause internal damage to sensitive organs like the bladder or ureters. Falls, car accidents, and sports injuries are common external causes.
Internally, a variety of infectious agents can cause serious infections of the genital or urinary tract organs. Such infections come about for a variety of reasons, including improper catheterizations and poor hygiene.
A number of diseases also cause fistulas in these systems. Known culprits include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Fever can be a symptom of genitourinary fistula, but there are also many other possible signs of damage. The specific symptoms of a given case depend on factors that include patient health, injury severity, location, organs affected, and fistula type. People who experience sudden incontinence, urinary or genital infections, or serious abdominal traumas need professional medical care.
Are Corrective Treatments Invasive?
Because genitourinary fistula location and type varies so much, corrective treatment options also vary. Less serious and more accessible cases may require little or no invasive treatment. For example, infectious cases that respond well to antibacterial medications may clear up without surgery. In other cases, serious breaches between major organs may require corrective or reconstructive measures. Some major reconstructive surgeries for fistulas include:
Tissue grafts: In this treatment, doctors use tissues from the patient or compatible donors to form permanent flaps over open fistula holes.
Fistula plugs: These interventions use special medical materials to plug and fill certain types of fistulas.