Nutrition and management of enterocutaneous fistula

Br J Surg. 2006 Sep;93(9):1045-55. doi: 10.1002/bjs.5396.


Background: The management of enterocutaneous fistula is challenging, with significant associated morbidity and mortality. This article reviews treatment, with emphasis on the provision and optimal route of nutritional support.

Methods: Relevant articles were identified using Medline searches. Secondary articles were identified from the reference lists of key papers.

Results and conclusion: Management of enterocutaneous fistula should initially concentrate on correction of fluid and electrolyte imbalances, drainage of collections, treatment of sepsis and control of fistula output. The routine use of somatostatin infusion and somatostatin analogues remains controversial; although there are data suggesting reduced time to fistula closure, there is little evidence of increased probability of spontaneous closure. Malnutrition is common and adequate nutritional provision is essential, enteral where possible, although supplemental parenteral nutrition is often required for high-output small bowel fistulas. The role of immunonutrition is unknown. Surgical repair should be attempted when spontaneous fistula closure does not occur, but it should be delayed for at least 3 months.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cutaneous Fistula / complications
  • Cutaneous Fistula / metabolism
  • Cutaneous Fistula / surgery*
  • Drainage / methods
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Fistula / complications
  • Intestinal Fistula / metabolism
  • Intestinal Fistula / surgery*
  • Malnutrition / etiology
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Parenteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance