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Rectal Prolapse

(Mucosal Prolapse; Partial Prolapse; Complete Prolapse; Internal Prolapse)
  • Definition

    Rectal Prolapse
    Rectal prolapse
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Causes

    Rectal prolapse is caused by weak muscles and ligaments. These structures hold the rectum in place.
  • Risk Factors

    Children aged 1-3 years and older adults are at higher risk.
    • Risk factors in children include:
      • Cystic fibrosis
      • Previous anal surgery
      • Malnutrition
      • Straining during bowel movements
      • Infections
    • Risk factors in adults include:
      • Straining during bowel movements
      • Pregnancy and the stress of childbirth
      • Weakness of pelvic floor muscles due to aging
      • Hemorrhoids
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:
    • Difficulty controlling bowel movements
    • Bleeding or mucous from the anus
    • Constipation
    • Feeling of incomplete bowel movements
    • Loss of urge to defecate
    • Anal pain or itching
    • Tissue that sticks out of the anus
    • Pain during bowel movements
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your anus and rectum will be examined.
    Images may be taken of your body structures. This can be done with:
    • Defecography—series of x-rays of the rectum and anus taken during a bowel movement
    • Colonoscopy —visual exam of the rectum and colon (large intestine) using a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end
    An anorectal manometry may also be done to measure the strength of the anal sphincter muscles, sensation in the rectum, and the reflexes needed for normal bowel movement.
  • Treatment

    Prolapse in children tends to go away on its own. In adults, gentle pressure to the rectum can sometimes push the rectum back into place. The sooner the condition is treated, the better the outcome. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.
    Certain medications may help to reduce pain and straining during bowel movements. Your doctor may recommend stool softeners and bulk agents.
    In some cases, surgery may be needed. Surgeries used to treat rectal prolapse include:
    • Laparoscopic rectopexy—A laparoscope (a tiny camera) is placed through a small incision in the abdomen. The rectum is secured in place with stitches.
    • Perineal proctectomy—An incision will be made in the rectum. Tissue that is sticking out of the anus is removed.
  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of rectal prolapse:
    • Eat a healthy diet that is high in fiber.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • To train your bowels, create a routine. For example, try to go to the bathroom after lunch each day.
    • Do not rush when moving your bowels.
    • If you feel the urge to move your bowels, go to the bathroom.

    American Gastroenterological Association

    American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons


    Canadian Society of Intestinal Research

    Health Canada


    Constipation in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 9, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

    Constipation in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated December 3, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2014.

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