Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum — the end of the large intestine — drops out of the anus. It is a type of pelvic organ prolapse. (Prolapse is a word doctors use to describe the descent of an organ from its original position.)
A relatively rare problem, rectal prolapse is most common in older adults and in children younger than 6.
Rectal prolapse: what you should know
- It usually happens gradually. At first, your rectum may drop out of your anus during bowel movements and then return to its original position. Eventually, the rectum may start to stick out of the anus for longer periods of time before going back in.
- It is often mistaken for hemorrhoids. Rectal prolapse can look and feel like hemorrhoids, swollen veins near your anus or lower rectum. It is less common than hemorrhoids, but can be a more serious problem.
- Other conditions can cause it. In children, cystic fibrosis and trichuriasis (infection with a parasite known as whipworm) are common causes of rectal prolapse. In adults, chronic constipation is the most common cause.
Rectal prolapse symptoms
The main symptom is a reddish lump that sticks out of your anus, particularly after a bowel movement. If you have rectal prolapse, you may also experience the following:
How can I get help for rectal prolapse?
Having the symptoms above does not necessarily mean that you have rectal prolapse. But if you have any of these symptoms and they don’t go away, you should contact your primary care doctor.
If necessary, your primary care doctor may refer you to another specialist.
Care for rectal prolapse at Rush
For adults with rectal prolapse, surgery is the only cure. The type of surgery you need will depend on your age, sex and overall health, as well as the severity of your condition. Surgeons at Rush offer the full range of surgical options for repairing rectal prolapse:
- Transabdominal surgery: Surgeons repair the rectum through incisions in the abdomen. At Rush, they usually use minimally invasive techniques, which involve only small incisions and can lead to less scaring and shorter hospital stays. This is often a good option for otherwise healthy patients, since it may offer better long-term results.
- Perineal surgery: Surgeons repair the rectum by working through the anus. Because this procedure is less invasive than transabdominal surgery and often involves shorter recovery times, it may be a good option for older patients or those with other serious medical conditions who are not good candidates for transabdominal surgery.
- Treatment for children’s underlying conditions. Treating children’s underlying conditions (such as cystic fibrosis or trichuriasis) will usually cure their rectal prolapse.
- Stool softeners. Taking stool softeners can reduce pressure on the rectum, easing the symptoms of rectal prolapse. Once the rectum has become detached, though, surgery is the only way to completely repair it.
Why choose Rush for rectal prolapse care
- Surgical innovation: Colon and rectal surgeons at Rush have helped pioneer several minimally invasive techniques, including colorectal laparoscopy and intestinal robotic surgery. These techniques, which involve smaller incisions, can lead to less pain and shorter recovery times.
- Faster recovery: Patients who have colon or rectal surgery at Rush benefit from an enhanced recovery program designed to speed the return of bowel function and shorten the length of their hospital stay. The program involves education, exercises and other strategies to help patients feel better faster.