Treatment of Enterocutaneous Fistulas, Then and Now

Luis Alfonso Ortiz, Bin Zhang, Maureen Walsh McCarthy, Haytham M.A. Kaafarani, Peter Fagenholz, David R. King, Marc De Moya, George Velmahos, Daniel Dante Yeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: An enterocutaneous fistula (ECF) is an aberrant connection between the gastrointestinal tract and the skin or atmosphere (enteroatmospheric fistula [EAF]). Multimodal treatment includes surgical procedures, nutrition support, and wound care. We evaluated our practice and compared our outcomes with previous results published from our institution. Materials and Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of hospitalized ECF/EAF patients admitted between January 2011 and November 2015. Patients with internal fistulas; active inflammatory bowel disease; malignancy; radiation treatment; end-stage renal, hepatic, or cardiac disease; and active alcoholism were excluded. Data collected included demographics, fistula characteristics, nutrition therapy, treatment, operative success, and hospital mortality. Parametric and nonparametric tests for independent and paired groups were performed. Results: Thirty-one patients were included in the analysis. The median (interquartile range) age was 60 (53-76) years, and 81% were female. Parenteral nutrition was initially prescribed in 80% of patients, but 61% received enteral nutrition (EN) at some point during their hospitalization. Two patients were fed by fistuloclysis. Eighty percent of the patients underwent surgical repair a median of 12 months after diagnosis with 92% operative success. Surgical repair had a modest correlation with home discharge (I = 0.517, P =.003). A large proportion of patients (77%) were discharged home. The in-hospital mortality at our institution decreased from 44% in 1960 to 21% in 1970 to 3% in the current study. Conclusions: Modern treatment of ECF/EAF, including EN and advanced local wound care, is associated with improvements in clinical outcomes such as hospital mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-515
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cutaneous fistula
  • enteral nutrition
  • enteroatmospheric fistulas
  • enterocutaneous fistula
  • fistula
  • fistuloclysis
  • intestinal fistula
  • parenteral nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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