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A to Z: Rectal Prolapse

May also be called: Rectal Procidentia

Rectal prolapse is a condition in which part of the rectum slips down (prolapses) and protrudes through the anus.

More to Know

The rectum is the last part of the large intestine. It's where stool (poop) is stored until it leaves the body through the anus as a bowel movement. Certain conditions can cause the rectum to prolapse, which literally means "to fall out of place." When this happens, part of the rectum sticks out through the anus.

There are two kinds of rectal prolapse:

  1. With mucosal prolapse, only the lining (mucosa) of the rectum protrudes through the anus.
  2. With complete prolapse, the actual wall of the rectum may protrude out as much as 2 inches (5 centimeters) or more, especially following a bowel movement. Rectal prolapse is usually painless, but it can cause mild discomfort, bleeding, and loss of bowel control.

Causes of rectal prolapse include chronic constipation; diseases that cause diarrhea; infection with parasites; malnutrition; cystic fibrosis; and increased pressure in the abdomen from excessive vomiting, toilet training, straining during bowel movements, or prolonged coughing.

Rectal prolapse most commonly affects young children and the elderly. Treatment usually requires a doctor to gently push the prolapsed rectum back into place, but in some cases, particularly with adults, surgery may be needed to correct the condition.

Keep in Mind

A rectal prolapse usually doesn't cause pain, and treating the cause usually cures the prolapse. About 90% of kids under 3 years old who get rectal prolapse can be treated without surgery, and in many of those cases a prolapse won't occur again. Surgery, when necessary, usually is successful.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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