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What Is a Bladder Fistula?

The human urinary tract, including the bladder in pink at the bottom.
A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2014
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A bladder fistula is an irregular connection that exists between a person's bladder and either another organ of his body or the outside of his body. These connections, often called tunnels, allow urine to flow to other parts of the body and even to the surface of a person's skin. In some cases, bladder fistulas even form between the anus and the bladder, allowing fecal matter to make its way into the affected person's urine. Bladder fistulas can often be successfully treated.

There are various types of fistulas that may affect the human body. Essentially, fistulas are just abnormal openings that lead from one organ to another or from an organ to the outside of the body. The most common types of bladder fistulas are those that form abnormal connections between the bladder and the anus or the bladder and the vagina. Bladder fistulas that lead out to the skin do develop as well, though they may be less common than the other types.

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One of the symptoms of a bladder fistula is acute urine leakage that doesn't appear to be connected to any other type of condition. A person with this condition may also note the frequent development of urinary tract infections, have gas escape from the urethra during urination, or feel urine leaking out of the vagina instead of coming from the urethra. In some cases, a person with this condition may also notice urine on the surface of his skin or feces in his urine. Additionally, a person who has a bladder fistula may develop a fever, notice skin irritation, or have discomfort that is related to the condition.

There are many factors that can lead to the development of bladder fistulas. One of them is injury that occurs during surgical treatment of the urinary system or the reproductive system. Sometimes, people develop fistulas as a complication of inflammatory bowel disease, and some develop them as a complication of bowel cancer. An individual may even develop a bladder fistula after having radiation therapy.

Treatment for a bladder fistula usually involves surgery, though it may be necessary to treat any abscesses or infections the patient has before moving on with surgical treatment. Once such conditions have been treated, surgeons usually aim to repair the abnormal holes in the patient's organs and may use healthy tissues to create a new barrier between the bladder and the other affected body structures. If there is cancerous tissue present, surgeons may also remove that tissue as part of the surgery.

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