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Colovesical fistula

A colovesical fistula is the presence of a communication between the lumen of the colon and that of the bladder, either directly or via an intervening abscess cavity (foyer intermediaire) 2. When the communication is between the rectum and urinary bladder it is more termed a recto-vesical fistula.

Epidemiology

The demographics will match those of the underlying cause including 2:

Clinical presentation

In most instances the diagnosis is suspected clinically due to pneumaturia, faecaluria, recurrent ruinary tract infections, or passage of urine rectally 4. In some cases it will be first diagnosed radiologically at the time of investigation for the primary disease.

Radiographic features

In most cases the fistula occurs thought the dome of the bladder (~ 60%). The posterior wall (~ 30%) and trigone (~ 10%) are less frequent sites 2. A colovesical fistulas and its cause can be visualised in a number of ways, although the fistulous tract itself is often difficult to demonstrated.

CT

On CT the fistula will be heralded by the presence of gas within the lumen of the bladder, or less frequently direct demonstration of the tract itself.  Contrast may be instilled into the rectum 'on table' prior to the acquisition of images in order to demonstrate a fistula.

Fluoroscopy

A contrast enema is most likely to show the actual fistula, although this still occurs in a minority of cases. The underlying cause will be demonstrated, with relevant findings to the diagnosis (e.g. diverticula, stenosing mass lesion, changes of Crohn's disease etc..)

The beehive on the bladder sign has been coined to describe the vesical end of the fistula as seen on cystogram. It elevates the bladder outline in a rounded triangular fashion, reminiscent of a beehive 1.

Treatment and prognosis

Surgical resection of the fistula and abnormal segment of bowel is usually required for cure, although in the setting of malignancy this suggests advanced disease (T4) making surgery complex.

In such cases, if palliation only is required then de-functioning colostomy, colonic stent placement or a nephrostomy may be required 3.

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