Rectovaginal Fistula



Rectovaginal fistula is caused by an injury to this area. The injury may be caused by trauma or a health problem.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of rectovaginal fistula are:

  • Crohn disease
  • Recent surgery to the perineum (area between vagina and rectum), vagina, rectum, or anus
  • Injuries during childbirth
  • Radiation treatment or cancer in the pelvic area
  • Infection in the area around the anus



Problems may be:

  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Pain during sex
  • Passing stool (poop) or gas through the vagina
  • Problems controlling stool
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures of the area may need to be taken. This can be done with:

  • Anorectal ultrasound—a small wand is used to make a video of the rectum and anus
  • Methylene enema—a tampon is placed in the vagina and dye is placed into the rectum to watch how fluid moves from the rectum to the vagina
  • Contrast studies— barium enema may be used to view a fistula that cannot be seen during an exam
  • Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube is placed in the rectum to view the rectum and the lower colon



Surgery will be done to close the opening between the rectum and vagina. Tissue may be taken from another part of the body as a graft. This tissue will help to close the fistula.


There are no known guidelines to prevent rectovaginal fistula.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.