Elective laparoscopic surgery for benign internal enteric fistulas: A review of 43 cases

N. Pokala, C. P. Delaney, K. M. Brady, A. J. Senagore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: Laparoscopic surgery has been applied to the management of various colorectal conditions, with shorter recovery periods than reported for open surgery. This study reviewed the feasibility and outcome of laparoscopic surgery for benign internal enteric fistulas. Methods: All the patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery for colovesical, colovaginal, enterovesical, and enterocolic fistulas caused by diverticulitis or Crohn's disease from 1995 to 2003 were identified from the prospective laparoscopic surgery database and retrospectively analyzed. Crohn's ileo-ileal fistulas were excluded from the study because these are generally resected more simply en bloc with the terminal ileum. Results: This study enrolled 43 patients (23 men and 20 women) with median age of 43 years, a mean body mass index of 24.5, and in American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) distribution of 3/33/8/0 (class 1/2/3/4). The diagnosis was diverticular for 24 patients and Crohn's disease for 19 patients. The mean operative time was 163 ± 80 min (155 in completed and 180 in converted cases), and the mean length of hospital stay was 5.2 ± 4.7 days (3.9 in completed and 7.9 days in converted cases). A total of 14 patients (32.6%) required conversion for dense adhesions (n = 8), duodenal involvement (n = 3), multiple fistulae (n = 1), fecal leak (n = 1), and additional pathology (n = 1). Conversion rates, analyzed by fistula type, were duodenal (100%), vaginal (66.7%), sigmoid (27.7%), bladder (15.4%), enterocolic (0%), and colocolic (0%). There were six major complications (14%) including anastomotic leak (n = 3), abscesses (n = 2), and postoperative bleeding (n = 1). There were seven minor complications (16.3%) including postoperative ileus (n = 2), transient pleural effusion (n = 1), wound infection (n = 1), transient small bowel obstruction (n = 2), and brachial plexus neuralgia (n = 1). There was no significant difference in the complication (p = 0.57), reoperation (p = 0.3), or readmission (p = 0.4) rates between the completed and converted cases. Conclusions: Laparoscopic surgery for benign internal enteric fistula offers the earlier recovery seen with other laparoscopic colorectal operations. Duodenal and vaginal involvement by the fistula is associated with a higher conversion rate. A low threshold toward early conversion is useful in these difficult cases to reduce delays in the operating room and the unnecessary use of hospital resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-225
Number of pages4
JournalSurgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Benign
  • Enteric
  • Fistula
  • Internal
  • Laparoscopic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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