Rectal prolapse is the medical term for when the rectum protrudes from the anus; It occurs due to weakening of pelvic floor muscles or other factors that contribute to the loss of support for the rectum.
Rectal prolapse can be stressful, but effective treatment options are available to manage it. Non-surgical treatments can help those with mild cases, while surgical treatment options are considered to help those with moderate or severe rectal prolapse.
It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment option for each unique case. Rectal prolapse patients can have a better quality of life with early detection and prompt treatment
Types of rectal prolapse
There are three different types of rectal prolapse:
- External prolapse. When the entire rectum protrudes from the anus.
- Mucosal prolapse. when the interior lining of the rectum protrudes through the anus.
- Internal prolapse. when the rectum has begun to drop but has not yet protruded from the anus.
Symptoms of rectal prolapse
Rectal prolapse symptoms may vary in severity.
Common symptoms include:
- Visible protrusion of the rectal tissue through the anus during bowel movements.
- Discomfort, pain, and a sense of fullness in the rectal area.
- Bleeding and mucus discharge from the protruding tissue.
- Difficulty controlling bowel movements, leading to fecal incontinence or constipation.
Causes of rectal prolapse
- Weak pelvic floor muscles. The rectum and nearby structures are supported by the pelvic floor muscles. Rectal prolapse may arise as a result of weakness of these muscles.
- Chronic constipation. The pressure from repeated straining during bowel movements, which results from chronic constipation, increases the risk of prolapse.
- Age and gender. Older people, especially women, are more likely to experience rectal prolapse than men because hormonal changes and aging can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
- Childbirth. Giving birth can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles, weakening them and raising the risk of rectal prolapse.
- Chronic diarrhea. Repeated episodes of diarrhea may put more pressure on the rectum and potentially lead to prolapse.
- Connective tissue disorders. Certain connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome, may play a role in the development of rectal prolapse due to weakened connective tissues.
Diagnosis of rectal prolapse
During the appointment, your proctologist will perform a physical examination of the rectal area while straining or simulating straining to diagnose rectal prolapse; They may also order imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI scans to assess the extent of the prolapse, rule out other conditions, and choose the best treatment option.
Additionally, the proctologist may perform an anorectal manometry test, which measures the pressure and coordination of the muscles in the anus and rectum to examine muscle function. You may also undergo a colonoscopy, in which a flexible tube is put into your rectum to view the entire colon and rule out other conditions, such as polyps or colon cancer.
Treatment of rectal prolapse
Rectal prolapse treatment depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition and the patient’s overall health, and personal preferences.
1. Non-surgical treatments:
- Dietary changes. Increasing fiber intake, drinking enough fluids, and maintaining regular bowel habits will help prevent constipation, which reduces the strain on the rectal tissues during bowel movements.
- Pelvic floor exercises. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through exercises, such as Kegel exercises, can increase muscle tone and support the rectal area.
- Medications. Medication may occasionally be prescribed to manage associated symptoms, such as stool softeners to treat constipation or anti-diarrheal drugs to treat diarrhea.
2. Surgical treatments:
- Rectopexy. This surgical procedure involves repositioning and attaching the rectum to the surrounding tissues to offer support and prevent prolapse; It can be performed using open surgery or minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic or robotic surgery.
- Delorme’s procedure. For partial rectal prolapse, Delorme’s procedure can help by removing a portion of the rectal lining and strengthening the remaining tissue to relieve symptoms.
- Altemeier procedure. This procedure is used to treat complete rectal prolapse; It involves removing the prolapsed rectal tissue and creating a surgical connection (called anastomosis) between the rectum and colon.
- Transanal repair. Transanal repair is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves repairing the rectal prolapse through the anus. This procedure is performed using specialized tools, and the recovery time is usually quicker than other surgical procedures.
- Perineal proctectomy. In this surgical procedure, the prolapsed rectal tissue is removed through the perineum, the area between the anus and the scrotum or vagina. The procedure is usually only used when all other surgical options have failed.
Prevention of rectal prolapse
Rectal prolapse may not always be preventable, but several precautions might help lower the likelihood or lessen the severity of it; These include performing pelvic floor exercises regularly, eating a high-fiber diet, staying hydrated, not straining during bowel movements, and getting treatment for chronic constipation or other problems that may cause rectal prolapse.
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