Management of H-type rectovestibular and rectovaginal fistulas

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Pediatric Surgery








Anal stenosis; Anorectal malformation; H-type rectovaginal fistula; Labial abscess; Rectovestibular fistula


Introduction: H-type rectovestibular or rectovaginal fistulas are rare entities in the spectrum of anorectal malformations seen in North America. Management options described in the literature have included perineal repair, anterior perineal anorectoplasty, vestibuloanal pull-through, and limited or formal posterior sagittal anorectoplasty, with a reported recurrence rate of 5% to 30%. We describe our approach and outcome in the management of these patients. Methods: In a series of 1170 females with anorectal malformation, we cared for 8 patients who had an H-type rectovestibular or rectovaginal fistula and reviewed their clinical presentation, diagnosis, operative technique, and postoperative course. Results: The patients' presenting symptoms included passage of stool per vagina (6), constipation (3), labial abscess (1), and recurrent urinary tract infection (1). There was associated anorectal stenosis in 3 patients. The remaining 5 patients had normal anal openings. Endoscopy was not helpful in locating the fistulas, but the fistulas were all demonstrated on direct inspection under anesthesia. The fistula was located in the vestibule (4), vagina (3), or labia (1). One patient had an associated presacral mass. Two patients had been operated on twice previously using a perineal repair and a protective colostomy and presented with third recurrences. In 5 cases, a posterior sagittal approach was used, placing sutures circumferentially around the fistulous opening on the rectal side, ligating the fistula, and pulling down a normal segment of rectum to be placed in front of the repaired vaginal wall. In our last 3 cases, we performed a transanal mobilization of the anterior rectal wall, leaving the perineal body intact. After our repairs, the patients have been followed up for 3 months to 15 years with a median of 15 months, and we have seen no recurrences. Conclusions: In addition to vaginal passage of stool, an H-type fistula should be suspected when there is a labial abscess in an infant, and an associated anal stenosis or presacral mass must be checked for. Direct inspection is the key, with a careful look in the vestibule, because endoscopy may miss the fistula. The essential technical point for repair is to get healthy anterior rectal wall to cover the area of fistula on the posterior vagina. A transanal approach, leaving the perineal body intact, is an excellent option for this repair. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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