BACKGROUND: The present study was designed to evaluate the effects of guided treatment of patients with an enterocutaneous fistula and to evaluate the effect of prolonged period of convalescence on outcome. METHODS: All consecutive patients with an enterocutaneous fistula treated between 2006 and 2010 were included in this study. Patient information was gathered prospectively. Treatment of patients focused on sepsis control, optimization of nutritional status, wound care, establishing the anatomy of the fistula, timing of surgery, and surgical principles. Outcome included spontaneous and surgical closure, mortality, and postoperative recurrence. The relationship between period of convalescence and recurrence rate was determined by combining the present prospective cohort with a historical cohort from our group. RESULTS: Between 2006 and 2010, 79 patients underwent focused treatment for enterocutaneous fistula. Cox regression analysis showed that period of convalescence related significantly with recurrence of the fistula (hazard ratio 0.99; 95 % confidence interval 0.98-0.999; p = 0.04). Spontaneous closure occurred in 23 (29 %) patients after a median period of convalescence of 39 (range 7-163) days. Forty-nine patients underwent operative repair after median period of 101 (range 7-374) days and achieved closure in 47 (96 %). Overall, eight patients (10 %) died. CONCLUSIONS: Prolonging period of convalescence for patients with enterocutaneous fistulas improves spontaneous closure and reduces recurrence rate.
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