Objectives: To assess urinary and reproductive health and quality of life following surgical repair of obstetric fistula.
Design: Follow-up study.
Setting: A newly established fistula clinic (2004) at Gimbie Adventist Hospital, a 71-bedded district general hospital in West Wollega Zone, in rural Western Ethiopia.
Population: Thirty-eight women (86%) of 44 who had undergone fistula repair were identified in their community.
Methods: Community-based structured interviews 14-28 months following fistula repair, using a customised questionnaire addressing urinary health, reproductive health and quality of life.
Main outcome measures: Urinary health at follow up was assessed as completely dry, stress or urge incontinence, or fistula. King's Health Questionnaire was modified and used for the quality-of-life assessment.
Results: At follow up, 21 women (57%) were completely dry, 13 (35%) suffered from stress or urge incontinence and three (8%) had a persistent fistula. Surgery improved quality of life and facilitated social reintegration to a level comparable to that experienced before fistula development for both women who were dry and those with residual incontinence (P = 0.001). For women still suffering from fistula no change was seen (P = 0.1). Four women became pregnant following their surgery, among which there was one maternal death, three stillbirths and one re-occurrence of fistula.
Conclusion: Community-based, long-term follow up after fistula repair succeeded in Western rural Ethiopia. Despite one-third still suffering stress or urge incontinence, the women reported improved quality of life and social reintegration after fistula closure.