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Fistulogram and Sinogram: About This Test

Location of large intestine, with detail of rectum and anus showing anal fistula

What is it?

A fistulogram is a test to look at a fistula, which is like an abnormal tube between organs or from an organ to the skin.

A sinogram is a test to look at a sinus. A sinus is like a fistula. But instead of connecting two organs, it's like a tube that's closed on one end.

Both of these tests use X-rays with a special dye that is injected into the area of the fistula or sinus. The dye allows the fistula or sinus to show up on the X-ray. A CT scan can also be used for these tests.

Why is it done?

The test may be done to diagnose a fistula or sinus. These tests also help your doctor find out details about the fistula or sinus, such as where it is and the organs it affects. This helps your doctor plan how to treat the problem.

How do you prepare for the test?

Your doctor may tell you how to prepare for the test. What you'll need to do depends on where the fistula or sinus is.

How is the test done?

The test is usually done in a clinic or a hospital.

  • You will need to take off your clothes and put on a hospital gown.
  • Take off any jewellery. Take out any dentures if the test is done near your head.
  • You'll lie on your back on an X-ray or CT machine table.
  • You may get medicine to help you relax.
  • The doctor will find where the fistula or sinus starts. He or she will put a thin tube, called a catheter, into the fistula or sinus. Dye is injected through the tube.
  • The doctor will watch where the dye goes. This shows where the fistula or sinus is and what organs it affects.

How long does it take?

The test will take about 30 minutes to an hour.

What happens after the test?

  • You can go home soon after the test. You may have a bandage to prevent bleeding.
  • You will get instructions for what to do at home. You'll probably be able to go back to your usual activities the next day. You may eat and drink whatever you like, unless your doctor tells you not to.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.