A fistula occurs when two organs or structures within the body form an abnormal connection. Fistulas can begin in various ways, but many start as an abscess. Abscesses are pus-filled pockets of tissue. Gradually, the abscess may fill with a bodily fluid such as urine. After a while, the abscess invades another structure in the body. This connects the two structures and forms a fistula. You can think of it as a tunnel that should not be there. Fistulas are most common in the abdomen but can occur anywhere in the body.
Four types of fistulas are the most common. Enterocutaneous fistulas connect the small intestine to the skin. They often result from surgical complications. Enteroenteric or enterocolic fistulas involve either the small or large intestine connecting to another structure in the body. Enterovaginal fistulas are fistulas involving the vagina. Enterovesicular fistulas enter the bladder and can cause the person to contract frequent urinary tract infections.
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