To compare the perioperative outcomes of transvaginal/perineal and abdominal approaches to rectovaginal fistula (RVF) repair using a national multicenter cohort.
The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database was utilized to identify women undergoing RVF repair from 2005 to 2016. Emergent cases and those with concomitant bowel diversion were excluded. Baseline patient demographics, procedure characteristics, 30-day postoperative complications, return to the operating room, and readmission were evaluated. Baseline characteristics were compared across surgical approach. Multivariable logistic regression models identified preoperative characteristics independently associated with postoperative complications.
A total of 2288 women underwent RVF repair: 1560 (68.2%) via transvaginal/perineal approach and 728 (31.8%) via abdominal approach. Patients undergoing transvaginal/perineal repair were significantly younger (median age, 46 years vs 63 years), with lower American Society for Anesthesiologist (ASA) scores, and less frequency of diabetes mellitus, dyspnea, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, disseminated cancer, and bleeding disorders (all P < 0.01). Those undergoing abdominal repair had higher rates of major complications (25.8% vs 8.7%), minor complications (13.5% vs 6.3%), and readmission (13.2% vs 7.8%). On multivariable analyses, ASA Class 3/4, disseminated cancer, and hematocrit <30% (P < 0.01) were associated with major complications in both groups.
Patients undergoing RVF repair via abdominal approach were older with more comorbidities and had higher postoperative complications rates, likely secondary to underlying differences in the treated populations. Irrespective of surgical approach, ASA class, disseminated cancer, and preoperative anemia were associated with higher postoperative morbidity. This may enhance preoperative counseling and allow for careful patient selection.

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