Management of surgical and radiation induced rectourethral fistulas with an interposition muscle flap and selective buccal mucosal onlay graft.

Research paper by Alex J AJ Vanni, Jill C JC Buckley, Leonard N LN Zinman

Indexed on: 19 Oct '10Published on: 19 Oct '10Published in: The Journal of Urology®


Rectourethral fistulas are a rare but devastating complication of pelvic surgery and radiation. We review, analyze and describe the management and outcomes of nonradiated and radiation/ablation induced rectourethral fistulas during a consecutive 12-year period.We performed a retrospective review of patients undergoing rectourethral fistula repair between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2009. Patient demographics as well as preoperative, operative and postoperative data were obtained. All rectourethral fistulas were repaired using an anterior transperineal approach with a muscle interposition flap and selective use of a buccal mucosal graft urethral patch onlay.A total of 74 patients with rectourethral fistulas underwent repair with an anterior perineal approach and muscle interposition flap (68 gracilis muscle interposition flaps, 6 other muscle interposition flaps). We compared 35 nonradiated and 39 radiated/ablation induced rectourethral fistulas. Concurrent urethral strictures were present in 11% of nonradiated and 28% of radiated/ablation rectourethral fistulas. At a mean followup of 20 months 100% of nonradiated rectourethral fistulas were closed with 1 procedure while 84% of radiated/ablation rectourethral fistulas were closed in a single stage. Of the patients with nonradiated rectourethral fistulas 97% had the bowel undiverted. Of those undiverted cases 100% were without bowel complication. Of the patients with radiated/ablation rectourethral fistulas 31% required permanent fecal diversion.Successful rectourethral fistula closure can be achieved for nonradiated (100%) and radiation/ablation (84%) rectourethral fistulas using a standard anterior perineal approach with an interposition muscle flap and selective use of buccal mucosal graft, providing a standard for rectourethral fistula repair. Even the most complex radiation/ablation rectourethral fistula can be repaired avoiding permanent urinary and fecal diversion.