A fistula occurs when there is an abnormal connection between two parts of the body that are meant to be separate. Urinary fistulas are often caused by obstetrical intervention during delivery or complications from other surgeries, radiation, or underlying diseases. They are more common in women than they are in men.

Urinary fistula comes with frustrating symptoms, such as incontinence and recurring infection. The good news is that MedStar Health offers definitive options for surgical treatment. MedStar Health urology specialists are fellowship trained, with specialized skill and knowledge to treat urinary fistula.

Symptoms of urinary fistula

Fistulas are often painless. Most people become aware they have a urinary fistula as a result of the following common symptoms:

  • Incontinence

  • Frequent urinary tract infections

  • Irritation in vulva area

  • Abdominal pain

Diagnosis of urinary fistula

To diagnosis urinary fistula and plan appropriate treatment, MedStar Health urologists will conduct an exam and discuss with you your medical history.

Your physician may recommend further testing to effectively diagnose this condition and plan treatment. Tests may include imaging and cystoscopy, a test in which a tiny tube with a camera is inserted in the bladder.

Treatment for urinary fistula

When a fistula is small and surrounding tissue is healthy, it may sometimes heal on its own after minimal intervention, such as catheterization.

Most fistulas require surgical repair. The type of surgery is determined by the location of the fistula, done either through the abdomen or vagina. Depending on location and size of the fistula, minimally invasive options — including robotic surgery for urinary fistula — are available at MedStar Health.

After fistula repair, patients typically require a catheter for a few weeks. This is removed once the fistula has had a chance to heal.

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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20007

MedStar Health: Medical Center at Chevy Chase

5454 Wisconsin Ave. Barlow Building
11th Fl.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

MedStar Health: Medical Center at Brandywine

13950 Brandywine Rd.
Brandywine, MD 20613

MedStar Health: Medical Center at Lafayette Centre

1120 20th St., NW
Building 1 North
Washington, DC 20036