Urethrocutaneous fistula is an unwanted opening in the groin area where urine may leak out. The condition can be congenital (present at birth) or it can develop from an infection, injury, or as a complication of surgery. It is repaired surgically and has a high success rate.
Urethrocutaneous fistulas are unwanted openings between the urethra (where a person’s urine comes out) and the perineum (the skin in the groin area). They can cause urine to leak out, which is embarrassing and unsanitary. They also can lead to infections in the urinary tract, which can be damaging to organs and tissue in that area.
Urethrocutaneous fistulas are rare and can be present at birth or can develop as a result of an infection, an injury, or as a complication after surgery on or near the urethra.
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There are several tests that a healthcare provider can order to confirm if a problem, such as urine leaking out or an otherwise-unexplained infection in that part of the body, is a urethrocutaneous fistula. These include:
Although there are many variables to consider when making treatment decisions, such as size and location of urethrocutaneous fistulas, as well as the possibility that a patient has more than one fistula, surgery is usually needed to close them.
Smaller ones (less than 2 mm in size) are fairly easy to close. The surgeon simply stitches the opening shut while the patient is sedated.
Larger fistulas require more time and effort. If the skin around the fistula is not healthy, the surgeon may need to perform a more layered approach that is known as “waterproofing” to help seal off the opening.
Most patients will have a catheter placed during the procedure and for a short time afterward. They typically spend one night in the hospital after the surgery and then go home with bandages over the surgical area.
One study found that the overall success rate for fistula repair was 89 percent. For patients who did not have success the first time, doing a more complicated procedure on the second attempt (for example, treating a small fistula as you would normally treat a larger one) was very effective. Usually patients are advised to wait about six months before undergoing a second surgery, if needed, to allow the first procedure to heal completely.
Adding a “waterproofing layer” of skin is particularly effective when a second surgery is needed to correct ongoing problems.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/24/2018.
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