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Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse is a condition in which the rectum protrudes through the anus.

While somewhat rare, rectal prolapse can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life. At WakeMed, our colorectal surgeons provide a wide range of surgical procedures to treat rectal prolapse.

What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Rectal Prolapse?

A rectal prolapse can be either partial — in which the lining of the rectum bulges through the anus — or complete, when the entire rectum bulges through.

Symptoms usually develop gradually. Patients may feel the rectum pushing through, and then not immediately returning to its normal position after having a bowel movement. As the prolapse develops, patients may have to push the rectum back in after a bowel movement.

Fecal incontinence appears in the majority of rectal prolapse patients, and some will also experience constipation.

The causes of rectal prolapse aren’t always known, but it can be due to loose or relaxed muscles in the pelvic floor or anal sphincter, chronic constipation or diarrhea, or chronic and severe coughing and sneezing. 

How Is Rectal Prolapse Diagnosed?

Our physicians start by taking a detailed patient history, and perform a rectal examination and visual inspection of the prolapse. We may perform a defecography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm the diagnosis. A colonoscopy is usually required.

How Is Rectal Prolapse Treated?

At WakeMed, our experienced team works with patients to determine if the rectal prolapse is mild enough to treat at home. Our specialists can give instructions on how to push and train the prolapse back into proper position.  In some cases, surgery may be required, although it’s generally not an emergency situation.

When Is Surgery Needed for Rectal Prolapse?

For surgical treatment of rectal prolapse, we offer patients minimally invasive robotic rectopexy.

These robotic/laparoscopic surgeries result in less pain and discomfort, smaller incisions, quicker recovery, faster return to a normal diet, and fewer complications.

Rectal prolapse surgeries can be approached either through the abdomen or the perineal area.

Learn more about what to expect from colorectal surgery.

Make an Appointment

If you or someone you care for is experiencing worrisome symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our pediatric gastroenterologists, adult gastroenterologists or colorectal surgeons.