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My Fistula Surgery

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of my rectovaginal fistula. Since then, I’ve been in “recovery” and have had a lot of time to mull things over. Several of my friends encouraged me for speaking out on this difficult topic. I was also able to get ahold of my surgery notes. With all these factors in mind, I want to expand on my personal experience with fistula surgery and recovery.

The diagnosis

In my last post, I mentioned passing gas from the lady bits. I also mentioned that I had stool coming out of that area. I was reluctant to tell my husband about my suspicions. But I did. I wasn’t sure what the next step was and I was afraid. He immediately told me I needed to call my colorectal surgeon. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!?

Just to be sure, I texted my former ostomy nurse. She has direct access to my surgeon and she agreed with my husband. It was time to call the same doctor who created my j-pouch.

The examination

When I arrived at my doctor’s office, I was nervous. But thankfully, both my husband and my 15-month-old baby were with me. It really helps to have someone be so supportive… especially during an awkward situation.

“So, what’s going on?” my surgeon asked.

“Well…” I began awkwardly before telling him what was going on.

He told me that it might not be such an easy fix. Then, he had a look-see himself. He told me that he couldn’t really see much right there in the office, so we scheduled a flex sig under general anesthesia. Why the general anesthesia? Because if there was, in fact, a fistula, it’d be best to repair it while he’s already down there investigating.

The preparation

Preparation was not unlike the takedown surgery for my j-pouch! I was to fast the night before. The next morning I did a saline enema to fully clean me out. Gosh, I really hate enemas! Then, I showered with Hibeclens.

We went to the hospital first thing that morning and they called me back, asked me a million questions, I put on my gown, cap and compression socks, then they wheeled me back and put me under.

The procedure

My doctor performed the flex sig and he had a look at my j-pouch. According to the surgery notes, my j-pouch had a “Healthy Appearance.” SCORE! At least something’s going right. He rinsed it out with saline and it was stated that the mucosal appearance was also healthy all the way down to where the pouch is attached to my anus. AWESOME!

Near the “anastomosis” my surgeon found a hole and confirmed that the hole’s exit was indeed in my lady bits. My surgeon then cauterized the hole and sutured up the hole with “double-stitching.” Then they dressed the wound and sent me out into recovery.

Waking up

I woke up in recovery, groggy. I was surprised that my pain was about a 3-4 on the pain scale as I really wasn’t in pain before the surgery. Thankfully, fistula surgery, unless it’s horribly complicated, is usually outpatient and I was sent home that same day.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Suz Rose
    1 year ago

    Besides having Crohn’s dz a rectovaginal fistula is what caused many problems for me though I wish it had been more like your situation.
    I had a fistulotomy done several years back. Surgery went well & was discharged the same day, not typically an outpatient surgery in Md but nonetheless I was able to go home & deal with the anesthesia that made me sick, temporarily that is. I behaved myself & rested as instructed by the gi surgeon. Two days later I felt a bubble traveling slowly through the female part. I calmly waited to feel if this thing was going to stop. Oh it did…it popped! From there on I had stool passing from 2 ends 24/7. I did my best to keep the areas clean & it was not easy at all. I couldnt go anywhere & if I did well there almost always was a ‘accident’. The only solution was to get a loop ileostomy.

    “It will give you freedom” they said.

    Its been almost 5 yrs later & because of my ostomy I had Chronic Kidney Dz 5 immediately due to the never-ending dehydration. Electrolyte imbalances a lot however, I have less issues with the Crohn’s & fistula but do occasionally still have ‘leakage’ with is normal on one end but not the other so that only means the fistula is still there.
    Though I may not have been very helpful with this comment I will say these challenges are what makes me fight every single day to make things better. I have never given up. As long as my ostomy is in check (which is difficult, everyday) I have managed to be dialysis free on my own. I have to be strong & be my own advocate. I am more informed than my own doctors are & that is the hardest part of everything I deal with.
    Im glad you wrote about this because anyone that I mentioned fistulas etc to just turned their head. Nobody ever listens to the problems we face & they never understand what we really go through.

  • 1 year ago

    I have the same type of fistula but my was inoperable. I am on several medications to try to thicken my stool so it doesn’t come through the wrong way. I am constantly passing gas from my lady parts and for the most part I am locked in my house because I’m too embarrassed to go out in public. My only option was to have another ostomy. I would prefer to save that as a last chance type of thing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you for writing this. I didn’t even know what a fistula was until I started to hear others talk about it! I think it is so so important for people to discuss this, so that if you are to experience the symptoms you know what to expect.

    I hope you are recovering well and that you no longer have to deal with any more fistulas! And I am so happy to hear that your j-pouch is healthy and operating properly! That is amazing. Congratulations!

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

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