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A Dictionary of Nursing

Elizabeth Martin,

Tanya McFerran

fistula (fiss-tew-lă) n. ( pl. fistulae) 

an abnormal communication between two hollow organs or between a hollow organ and the exterior. Many fistulae are caused by infection or injury, but there are a number of other causes. anal f. an opening between the anal canal and the surface of the skin that may develop after an abscess in the rectum has burst (see ischiorectal abscess). arteriovenous f. a surgically created connection between an artery and a vein, usually in a limb, to create arterial and venous access for haemodialysis. biliary f. a fistula that may develop as a complication of gall bladder surgery. gastrocolic f. a fistula between the colon and the stomach that may result from malignant growth or ulceration. rectovaginal f. an opening between the rectum and vagina that occurs as a congenital abnormality. urogenital f. a fistula between the urinary and genital tracts, which may be congenital or acquired (e.g. as a result of complications of childbirth). vesicovaginal f. an opening between the bladder and the vagina causing urinary incontinence. It may result from damage during surgery, radiation damage following radiotherapy for pelvic malignancy, or prolonged obstructed labour.