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Redmond Regional Medical Center

Rectovaginal Fistula


Rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the rectum and the vagina. Gas or stool may leak from the bowel into the vagina.

Healthy Wall Between Vagina and Rectum
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A rectovaginal fistula is caused by an injury to this area. It may be caused by physical trauma or a medical condition.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of rectovaginal fistula include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Complications following surgery to the perineum (area between vagina and rectum), vagina, rectum, or anus
  • Injuries during childbirth
  • Radiation treatment or cancer in the pelvic area
  • Perianal infection


Symptoms may include:

  • Passing stool or gas via the vagina
  • Inability to control bowel movements
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Persistent pain in the pelvic area


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a colon and rectal surgeon.

Your body structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with:

  • Anorectal ultrasound—a small wand-like instrument provides a video image of the rectum and anus
  • Methylene enema—a tampon is placed in the vagina and methylene blue is placed into the rectum to identify movement of fluid from rectum to vagina
  • Contrast studies— barium enema may be used to view a rectovaginal fistula that cannot be seen on physical exam
  • Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower colon (to rule out irritable bowel disease)


Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Rectovaginal Fistula Repair Surgery

Surgery is usually needed. It is 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.


You may be given antibiotics if the area around the fistula is infected.


There are no steps to prevent rectovaginal fistula.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2014 -
  • Update Date: 12/20/2014 -
  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

  • Canadian Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

  • Women's Health Matters

  • Wheeless CR, Roenneburg ML. Rectovaginal fistula repair. Atlas of Pelvic Surgery website. Available at: Accessed February 2, 2010.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Redmond Regional Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.