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Surgical management of acquired rectourethral fistula: a retrospective analysis of 52 consecutive patients

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Acquired rectourethral fistula (RUF) is an uncommon complication mostly resulting from surgery or radiation. Standardization of the surgical management is lacking. The aim of this study was to report our experience with surgery for RUF.


This was a retrospective study of a prospectively maintained clinical database. The surgical strategy was tailored to complexity of RUF, presence of sepsis, history of radiation and residual urinary/fecal functionality. Outcomes measured were RUF closure and permanent fecal/urinary diversion. Impact of radiotherapy was also assessed.


Between November 2002 and January 2019, 52 patients were identified (100% males). Median follow-up was 10.5 (0.5–16.8) years. Three patients had RUF closure after conservative management. The remaining 49 patients had a total of 76 procedures. The cumulative closure rate after the first, second and third attempt was 55.1%, 85.7% and 95.9%, respectively. Fistula closure together with preservation of the fecal and urinary function was achieved in 49%, 65.3% and 67.3% after the first, second and third repair, respectively. The overall success rate for transanal, transperineal, restorative transabdominal and non-restorative transabdominal procedures was 35.7%, 64.3%, 57.1% and 94.1%, respectively. A significantly higher rate of urinary/intestinal stomas was observed in the irradiated vs non-irradiated patients (84.2% vs 42.4%; p = 0.004).


Surgery ensured healing in 96% of the patients. Radiotherapy led to higher rate of permanent urinary/fecal diversion. Nearly all irradiated patients who had transabdominal repair end up with a definitive stoma. When transperineal repair with gracilis flap interposition was used, the rate of fistula closure approached 90%. A treatment algorithm is proposed.

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Correspondence to G. Bislenghi.

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The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Universitary Hospitals Leuven, Belgium.

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Bislenghi, G., Verstraeten, L., Verlinden, I. et al. Surgical management of acquired rectourethral fistula: a retrospective analysis of 52 consecutive patients. Tech Coloproctol 24, 927–933 (2020).

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