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Rectal Prolapse

Alternate Names

  • rectal procidentia
  • prolapse of the rectum
  • Rectum and Anus

Definition

Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the rectum partially or completely sticks out through the anus.

What is going on in the body?

The rectum is the lowest part of the bowel. It is located just above the anus, which is the opening to the outside of the body. In prolapse, the rectum pushes through the anus.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The exact cause is rarely clear. The following conditions increase the risk of rectal prolapse:
  • cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects the lungs and gut
  • chronic constipation or straining during bowel movements
  • certain parasite infections of the bowel
  • injury to the bowel, which may be from surgery
Rectal prolapse is more common in young children or elderly individuals than in other age groups. It is more common in women than in men.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

In general, rectal prolapse cannot be prevented. Treatment of chronic constipation may help avoid prolapse from this cause.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

A medical history and physical exam are usually used. Further tests, such as x-rays, may be used to look for the cause.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

If the prolapse is not repaired with surgery, complications may occur. These include bleeding, open sores on the lining of the rectum, and infection. Bowel incontinence may be permanent, even after treatment.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

If a specific cause is identified, it should be treated. In addition, surgery is generally recommended to repair the prolapse and prevent complications.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Like any surgery, repair of rectal prolapse can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or reactions to anesthesia.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After recovery, a person can generally return to normal activities. Bowel incontinence often improves after surgery, but may be permanent.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Follow-up visits are needed until the person has recovered from surgery. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

Sources

Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 1997, Sabiston et al.

Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 1998, Sleisenger et al.

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