A rectovaginal fistula (RVF) is an epithelial lined tract between the rectum and vagina. This can result in recurrent urinary tract or vaginal infections, but also creates a significant psychosocial burden for the patient. Unfortunately, due to the individual complexities of these patients, they are difficult to manage despite the numerous surgical options presently described.1
Generally RVFs are classified as low, middle or high, due to the location of the rectal and vaginal opening. Due to this, both low and middle RVFs may be approached via anal, perineal or vaginal routes. Where as high RVFs, which have their vaginal opening near the cervix, generally require an abdominal approach for repair.2
Traditionally for high RVFs patients underwent open surgery; however, minimally invasive surgery has recently been widely accepted as the preferred approach. Although surgeons are becoming more facile with these approaches, both pelvic surgery and a reoperative abdomen still impose significant technical difficulties.3,4 Here, we present the video of a female with a complex surgical history including a hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy, creation and reversal of a Hartmann’s colostomy as well as a loop ileostomy due to a locally advanced recto-sigmoid cancer, who subsequently developed a rectovaginal fistula and was managed minimally invasively with a multidisciplinary novel approach through a posterior vaginectomy; an approach that utilized the enhanced magnification of the Robot, which improved visualization and allowed access into an uninflamed, virgin plane, resulting in minimal loss of vaginal length.
Milind D. Kachare, M.D.
Osvaldo Zumba, M.D.
Lorna Rodriguez-Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D.
Nell Maloney-Patel, M.D.
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Hackensack University Medical Center, City of Hope National Medical Center
Contributors: Dr. Jimmy Lin, Dr. Juana Hutchinson-Colas, Dr. Nell Maloney-Patel
Rectovaginal fistulas can occur for a number of reasons, including obstetric trauma, iatrogenic, radiation damage and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms range from asymptomatic to uncontrollable passage of gas or feces from the vagina leading to poor quality of life for some patients. For those patients whom surgery is indicated, there are several different approaches depending on the fistula etiology and previous attempts at repair. These range from simple fistulectomy to transabdominal repair with tissue interposition to Martius flap interposition. Our patient in the video had previously underwent multiple various repairs which failed to provide adequate resolution of her fistula and therefore presented for a Modified Martius flap repair. The benefit of such a repair is to provide neovascularity at the site of repair with minimal cosmetic effect.
As technique and technology have evolved in the modern age, surgical emphasis has shifted steadily towards minimally invasive alternatives. In colon surgery, laparoscopy has been shown to improve multiple outcome metrics, including reductions in post-operative morbidity, pain, and hospital length of stay, while maintaining surgical success rates. Unfortunately, despite the minimally invasive approach, elective laparoscopic sigmoidectomy typically requires an abdominal wall extraction site, leaving a large incision in addition to the laparoscopic port sites. It also utilizes three different types of intestinal staplers, leading to an anastomosis that may have multiple intersecting staple lines, thereby potentially influencing the anastomotic integrity, as well as increasing procedural costs substantially.
We present a case of a totally robotic sigmoidectomy utilizing a single stapler technique and natural orifice specimen extraction in a patient with multiple, severe, recurrent episodes of sigmoid diverticulitis over a 2-year period.
Rectal cancer with local invasion presents a particular operative challenge. The standard procedure for locally advanced rectal cancer is a total pelvic exenteration (TPE), which is a highly morbid procedure. For select patients, the literature has demonstrated that bladder-sparing techniques involving en bloc resection of the prostate are safe and oncologically acceptable.1 Additionally, case studies have demonstrated the success of combined approaches using laparoscopic techniques.2,3 However, little has been published concerning the combined robotic-assisted approach of an abdominoperineal resection (APR) and en bloc prostatectomy with vesicourethral anastomosis. Robotic assistance offers several advantages for pelvic surgery, including better visualization using 3D technology and wristed instruments. Furthermore, research has shown the advantages of robotic surgery for rectal cancer resections.4,5
Our video presents a case of T4N0M0 rectal cancer, 1 cm from the dentate line, in a 63 year old male with invasion anteriorly into the prostate. After completing chemotherapy and radiation, a combined approach with a colorectal surgeon and a urologist was done using the daVinci Xi robot (Intuitive Surgical Inc, Sunnyvale, CA). The important steps of the procedure are demonstrated in the attached video. Pathology revealed a 5 cm mucinous adenocarcinoma with treatment effect and negative margins. The patient did well post-operatively with no complications. He was discharged on post-operative day 5.
Robotic-assisted procedures offer the advantage of precision and visualization for pelvic operations. For locally invasive rectal cancer, robotic surgery allows the opportunity to create novel techniques for select patients in order to reduce the number of TPEs.