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Gastrointestinal Fistula

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

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.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein used to give you medicine or liquids.

Antibiotics

may be given to prevent or treat a bacterial infection.

Tests:

  • Blood tests may be done to find out if your body is low in certain nutrients. They may also be done to check for signs of infection.
  • An endoscopy is a procedure used to look at the inside of your esophagus and stomach with a scope. A scope is a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end. Your healthcare provider may remove a small sample of tissue and send it to a lab for tests.
  • A colonoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of your colon with a scope. A scope is a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end is used. Your healthcare provider may remove a small sample of tissue and send it to a lab for tests.
  • An x-ray of your upper and lower intestines may be done. Contrast liquid will be given so that healthcare providers can see your intestines more clearly.
  • A fistulogram is an x-ray of a fistula that goes through your skin to the outside of your body. Contrast liquid will be injected into the open wound to help your providers see the fistula better.
  • An ultrasound, CT, or MRI may be used to take pictures of your stomach and intestines. The pictures may show the location of your fistula. You may be given contrast liquid to help healthcare providers see the fistula better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

Treatment:

  • Nutrition support may be given through an IV or through a tube that is put into your nose (nasogastric tube). Nutrition given through an IV It will provide you with protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes fat (lipids). Nutrition support may be given 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.

RISKS:

A GI fistula can lead to weight loss and malnutrition (not enough calories or nutrients). It can also lead to dehydration. An infection can develop in the area of the fistula, and it can spread to the rest of your body.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

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

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