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Gastrointestinal Fistula


A gastrointestinal (GI) fistula

is an abnormal opening in your stomach or intestines. Fluids from your stomach and intestines leak into other parts of your body through the opening. They can leak into other organs or through your skin to the outside of your body. A GI fistula can lead to infections, malnutrition (not enough calories or nutrients), or dehydration.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe vomiting or diarrhea.
  • You have heavy bleeding from your rectum.
  • Your abdomen is larger than usual and very painful.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You develop any new symptoms.
  • You have a fever.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You notice a change in your bowel movements.
  • You feel depressed, confused, tired, irritable, and you do not feel like eating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


depends on the cause of your fistula, and the type of fistula you have. You may need treatment for a medical condition that caused your fistula. Some fistulas may close on their own. You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics may be needed to treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Nutrition support may be given through an IV or through a tube that is put into your nose (nasogastric tube). This will help you get the nutrition you need while your fistula heals.
  • Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) may be used to heal fistulas that go to the outside of your body. NPWT uses a machine called a wound vac, wound vacuum, or pump to help with wound healing. Suction from the machine removes excess drainage from your wound and pulls wound edges closer together. NPWT promotes healthy tissue growth by increasing blood flow to your wound. NPWT also reduces bacteria that causes infections.
  • Surgery may be needed to close your fistula. Surgery may instead be done to remove the part of your intestines that contains the fistula. A skin graft may be placed over a fistula that goes to the outside of your body.

Care for your open wound as directed:

You may need to keep a bandage over your wound to protect the skin from more damage. You may also need to clean your wound. Ask your healthcare provider how to clean your wound, and when and how to change your bandages.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.