The trouble with fistulas


Living with fistulas can be so unpredictable. One minute you have discomfort and excessive leaking, the next nothing. You and your surgeon have no idea whats going on, is it healing? oh hang on a minute it’s started again.

My vaginal fistula has returned after serious major surgery to get rid of the little bugger. I am upset but most of all I kind of knew it would happen. They are dreadful to heal and most don’t, and folk live with them for years. Suffering with leakage, either fluid if not connected to a bowel, or faeces if it is connected, so that faeces comes out of the vagina/ bladder/skin.

All the surgery for IBD are major and hard going, and that is the same for fistula.

I don’t actually understand why these things are so difficult to cure, but I also don’t understand why we are left for years without much help. It usually take me a year each time it starts again after surgery, to actually get anything done and that means spending hundreds of pounds on pads and underwear during that time, not to mention the discomfort and pain it can cause.


I have a stomal fistula which I have had since my first surgery nearly 5 years ago, I decided to leave it be until the other fistula was sorted, but that seems never ending and the stomal fistula is causing so much more problems.

It has grown a lot since those early days where just a small amount of poo would come out of it as well as the stoma end. I could just about cope but now, it looks like another stoma and it seems to poo more that the stoma itself, as I suspect it connects further down and diverts the output to the fistula. It is at the skin edge so the output usually seeps under the bag at some point. I have also had terrible trouble with ballooning, where the bag lifts in the night because of excess gas, this then causes leaks usually near the fistula.



It is very difficult to cut the wafer to fit around my weird shaped stoma, and take me a few goes at it even now. AS YOU CAN SEE, THE FISTULA CAN CAUSE SEVERE SKIN EROSION UNLESS THE BAG FITS PERFECTLY, AND STICKS WELL.

I feel it won’t be long before I admit defeat and have a stoma revision surgery. Does anyone else have a fistula story that has become frustrating?


I am all for raising awareness and feel that it is important to show a stoma in all its glory, otherwise there really isn’t any point telling people what it’s all about without the fine details.

People are curious and have never seen a stoma, yes they can look scary and unusual, believe me I didn’t want to look at mine for weeks, and in hospital my stoma nurse changed my bag a few times with me looking away. But after I got used to it I would have people ask me questions about it and I was more than happy to oblige. ( I assume if someone didn’t want to know about them then they wouldn’t read my blog).

Stomas can look very different from person to person as the reasons for having a stoma vary too, mine is an ileostomy where I had my entire colon removed and my small bowel ( Ileum) was bought through my tummy. You can have a colostomy where you will have some large bowel left ( Colon), you can have a urostomy ( which is for your urine) there are still some more for example a jejunostomy where the part of the small bowel called the jejunum would be bought through. These are the main types but you can have many others.


Some protrude out more than others like mine, this is handy when you have an ileostomy or high colostomies because your output is much looser, a lower colostomy will usually have thicker output much like normal poo but most are made in the same way, this diagram is excellent showing how an end ileostomy is made from INSIDE OUT OSTOMY LIFE

These photos were from a previous blog post from some very brave and wonderful people.

For some of us having a stoma it isn’t the end of surgery, we often have our rectums and anus completely removed too, ( Barbie or Ken butt ) to make sure our disease has gone and doesn’t cause problems. Like me you might develop fistulas and sinus tracts which is not uncommon with Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis. As you have probably read before I have had surgery to remove a perineal fistula by having an IGAM flap. ( a large piece of muscle from my thigh and buttock was placed into my rectal dead space and a flap of blood rich skin was sewn over that part ) I also have a stomal fistula which will need surgery in the future.

So if you know someone with a stoma of any kind, remember that they have usually been through a few tough surgeries to get to the point where they look and feel well. You cannot see anything so please don’t judge us if we need the disabled toilet or can’t walk far due to fatigue. These surgeries are life saving but there is usually a cost to that.




Well I must say this is very intriguing, is it something I would consider? possibly. It feels very futuristicky ( is that a word?) but as my husband says, if you lost a leg you wouldn’t think twice about using a prosthetic. Same with glass eyes etc… my only thoughts are the issues that those women had with the mesh for prolapsed bladders etc and the pain and complications they experienced, but this was made from  polypropylene and the TIES® is titanium.

It is still in early stages, but not that early, I wrote to Ostomycure who own TIES® and they wrote back with some information that they are happy for me to share. It is not available for sale as yet but it’s quite exciting.


“TIES Solution has received the CE Mark in June 2016.  We are planning to look for approval in Canada and Australia in the near future and as well  to submit TIES for FDA approval in the near future but this is going to take at least 24-36 months.
We are implementing an additional clinical trial in hospitals in Sweden and the UK. The study will be performed by Dr David James in Leeds and Dr Ed Westcott at St Thomas’ in London. 
The lid has to be changed every week. We’ll post the added centers on our website as they commit.
Please find attached pictures from an article that gives more information on TIES. Please also visit our website . We shall post regularly news, articles and product information.”
Regarding your questions:
1. TIES has received the CE mark which means it has successfully met the regulatory safety requirement regarding class IIb medical devices including clinical testing in human beings. 
2. We are developing a special lid with a hatch that clips onto the device’s external part without touching the skin. A clip-on plate that also does not touch the skin allows the fixation of a conventional single use bag for the drainage of the waste. After drainage, the plate is removed (and can be re-used). The hatch is cleaned and closed until the next time for drainage. It can also be worn during the night if so wished. The lid protrudes about 15mm above the skin.
3. The concept is all about providing a continent ileostomy that eliminates the need of conventional skin glued bags. 
4. There is no cramping or discomfort. When it is time to drain the waste, the patient “feels” it, similarly when one still has a physiological digestive system (colon, rectum). 
5. In the first 6 weeks the patient needs to wear the bag as usual to allow the tissue to grow into the titanium device. After that time the lid can be used.  The number of times the patient needs to go to the toilet diminishes over time when the intestine above the device tends to enlarge slowly to create a natural “pouch”. But the number of times depends largely on the length of the remaining intestine, the diet and the amount of food ingested.
6. There is no erosion or excavation since the patients are not in an inflammatory situation. In UC and Crohn, once the inflammatory part has been removed and an ileostomy put in place, there should not be any inflammation.
7. Should the device need to be removed, the surgeon will dissect around it and perform a conventional ileostomy as it was before.
Best regards

Johan Järte MD 
Medical Director 


I still have more questions but they can be answered as needed. Like the urge thing and what you do to empty. I can see from the above photos that you attach a bag when needed but then what? does it just seep out ? do we kind of strain like with an anus? or does the act of opening it trigger evacuation?

As I am  googler, I found the care manual that you get following the surgery. It seems you bend slightly forward to drain the internal pouch (that will eventually form ) it might take a while initially but should get quicker as things heal. Care has to be taken not to knock anything until you are fully healed.

One minute I think it sounds wonderful and I would consider it if given the opportunity, and then another minute I think it sounds very scary and robocop like. I also wonder if you can see the cap bit more under clothes than the actual bags we have now, definitely through tight clothes I would think.

Will it take off ? only time will tell.


Consequences for IBD patients when consultants can’t commit


This is a subject close to my heart and a very controversial one. There will be many people who are concerned with this subject but I feel it needs to be said.

I am a member of many IBD and stoma forums and the most overwhelming subject that keeps cropping up is patients being left to the “wait and see” approach. This to me is very dangerous as I also note that many patients’ bloods and observations are not indicative of the disease progression. These patients are being left in an unbearable position, in pain and suffering and for many this carries on for many months. It also means that if surgery is later than it should be, then the consequences of that can be major. There should not be anyone that is having life saving surgery for IBD ( there are some exceptions, like toxic mega colon that cannot be foreseen ). But I do know from experience that surgery could have been sooner with better outcomes.

I was one of those patients. Yes my consultant knew I had severe left sided disease, although it was constantly put down. It started as severe proctitis then gradually worked its way round to the left. I was feeling extremely ill, and my bloods were showing this at times. I was having temperature spikes, but because it wasn’t happening in clinic, I was disbelieved. I ended up with emergency surgery with no chance of reversal because my rectum was too severely diseased, to the point that I had rectal stump blow out, a major rare complication. I was also nutritionally poor before surgery.

These concerns are real and need addressing, the surgeons seem to have the right idea, ” don’t wait” . They are the ones that have to operate on people that could have been much better in health and now have many issues that could bring poorer outcomes. It will be the surgeons that have to work with what they have been given. I am sure the consultant GI’s are trying to do what they think is right for a chronic condition but I implore you to listen to the patient and take a leaf out of the surgeons’ book.  It doesn’t mean you have failed ,it means you haven’t. I know that IBD is a complex and unpredictable disease with many forms, and very difficult to treat, but if treatment is not working anymore then enough is enough.