Rectal prolapse refers to the protrusion of the mucous membrane of
the rectum (the most distal end of the intestines) through the anus,
the opening from the intestines to the outside of the body. It is
related to increased abdominal pressure, as when straining with a
bowel movement; weak pelvic or rectal muscles; and a weak anal
sphincter (the ring of muscle that keeps the anus closed). It is
most common in adults over age 60, especially women. It also occurs
in infants and may be an early sign of cystic fibrosis. There is an
increased risk with some neurological diseases and in the bedridden.
Symptoms may include:
• Protrusion of the mucosa of the rectum, usually only when
• Bowel incontinence (loss of voluntary control)
• Poor tone of the anal sphincter
• Rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain
• Sensation that the bowel is full, even when it is not
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Diagnose rectal prolapse by asking about your symptoms and doing a
physical examination. You may be asked to squat for the exam. The
protrusion usually occurs in this position.
• Order additional diagnostic procedures such as a barium enema
which allows for special x-rays to be taken, or an endoscopy (use of
a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and optics to view and take
tissue samples inside the rectum)
Treatment depends on the cause and the symptoms:
• Eliminating the straining may be all that is necessary. For
constipation, stool softeners and a high-fiber diet may be
• Your doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen the weak muscles
• Your doctor may also manually manipulate rectum back into place in
• Surgical repair may be recommended. There are several different
procedures that are used
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Be certain you
understand the advantages and drawbacks of each.
• Follow your doctor's instructions for muscle-strengthening
• Increase the bulk in your diet with high-fiber foods. This
includes whole grain breads and cereals, beans and peas, and fresh,
raw fruits and vegetables. To prevent abdominal bloating and gas,
increase fiber slowly rather than all at once.
• Increase fluids (especially water) in your diet to at least 8
glasses a day.
• Lose weight if you are overweight.
• Avoid straining, as in coughing or lifting heavy objects
• Avoid taking laxatives other than what your doctor recommends.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• Treatment is usually very effective.
• Complications following surgery may include incontinence of the
bowel, infection, or abnormal bleeding.
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
If you have symptoms of Rectal prolapse, if symptoms worsen
despite treatment, or if they recur. After surgery, report any signs
of infection or unusual bleeding.