Rectal Prolapse

Overstretched or weakened tissues around the rectum can lead to rectal prolapse.  

Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum (the bottom part of the large intestine) slides out of its normal position, sometimes causing it to protrude from the anus. This condition develops when the tissue that holds the rectum in place is stretched excessively. When this happens, the normal bend of the rectum straightens, which may lead to difficulty controlling bowel movements.

There are three types of rectal prolapse—partial, complete and internal:

  • A partial prolapse occurs when the lining of the rectum slides out of place and partially protrudes from the anus.
  • A complete prolapse happens when the entire wall of the rectum slips out of position and protrudes from the anus.
  • An internal prolapse occurs when the rectum, or a part of the large intestine, slides over another part of the rectum.

Rectal Prolapse Causes

Multiple factors can contribute to rectal prolapse, including:

  • A history of straining during bowel movements
  • Chronic constipation
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Nerve damage due to injuries, surgeries or pregnancy
  • Malnutrition

Rectal prolapse can affect anyone, although it’s most common in adults over age 40 and children.

Rectal Prolapse Symptoms

Someone with rectal prolapse may experience:

  • Fecal incontinence
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal mucous discharge
  • A constant need to have a bowel movement
  • Pain and anal itching
  • The appearance of a reddish bulge outside of the anus
  • The sensation of sitting on a ball after defecating

Rectal Prolapse Diagnosis

Diagnosing rectal prolapse begins with a review of symptoms and a rectal exam. To confirm the diagnosis and rule out other pelvic floor disorders, one or more of the following tests may be performed:

  • Anal electromyography (EMG)
  • Anal ultrasound
  • Anal manometry
  • Colonoscopy
  • Proctography

Rectal Prolapse Treatments

Rectal prolapse often goes away on its own. It can be treated at home through increased water intake and a change in diet that includes more fruit, vegetables and fibrous foods. But if a person’s condition does not improve, surgery may be recommended. One type of surgery that is commonly used to treat rectal prolapse is laparoscopic rectopexy, a minimally invasive procedure that repositions the prolapsed rectum with stitches.

If you have rectal prolapse, your condition can be evaluated and treated by experienced specialists at Tampa General Hospital’s Gastroenterology Institute.