Purpose: Crohn's disease is characterized by transmural bowel inflammation and a tendency to form fistulas with adjacent structures. Several different fistulas have been described: enterocutaneous, enteroenteric, enterovesical, enterovaginal, and perineal. Rectovaginal fistulas are difficult to treat despite multimodal therapy. This study was designed to review the current strategic options to best manage this condition.
Methods: We reviewed the English-language literature from 1966 to 2006, using PUBMED, targeting Crohn's disease involving vagina using key words "rectovaginal fistula and CD," "anovaginal fistula and CD," "anovaginal fistula," and "rectovaginal fistula." We excluded the involvement of the vagina from a pouch after a proctectomy. A total of 776 articles were found; 206 articles were identified and judged as being relevant on the basis of title-related articles and links were reviewed. Fifty-three articles were selected after reading the abstract or full manuscript.
Results: The management of rectovaginal fistula, representing 9 percent of all fistulas, remains a challenge in the setting of Crohn's disease. Medical treatments are not favorable with low rates of long-term symptomatic control and unacceptable high rates of recurrence. Several novel and new surgical techniques have been described, and rectal advancement flap, in selected patients, seems to have the most successful results.
Conclusions: The management of rectovaginal fistula of Crohn's origin should involve both gastroenterologists and coloproctologists, with the best surgical results being achieved in patients receiving optimum medical therapy. More focused studies targeting these patients with the use of combined medical and surgical therapy are necessary.
(C) The ASCRS 2007