(Gastrointestinal Fistula; Entero-enternal Fistula)
by Alexandra Howson, PhD
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.
Most enterocutaneous fistulas develop as a complication of bowel surgery. Other causes include:
Factors that may increase your chance of enterocutaneous fistula include:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a colon and rectal surgeon.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
A fistula may be able to heal on its own over 2-8 weeks. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
There are no current guidelines to prevent fistulas.
American Gastroenterological Association
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
Crohn's & Colitis Canada
Cobb A, Knaggs E. The nursing management of enterocutaneous fistulae: a challenge for all. Br J Community Nurs. 2003;8(9):S32-S38.
Enterocutaneous fistula. UCSF Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/enterocutaneous_fistula. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Pritts TA, Fischer DR, Fischer JE. Postoperative enterocutaneous fistula. Holzheimer RG, Mannick JA, editors. Surgical Treatment: Evidence-Based and Problem-Oriented. Munich: Zuckschwerdt; 2001. Available from:
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Accessed October 2, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 9/23/2014
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