Rectal prolapse: Impact on pelvic floor physiology and current management

K. I. Deen, R. D. Madoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rectal prolapse may be associated with fecal incontinence or constipation. Incontinence results from reduced internal sphincter tone and may be worsened by direct or neurogenic damage to the external sphincter and puborectalis muscles. Impaired anal sensation and previous anal sphincter injury may also contribute to incontinence. Constipation results from either difficulty in evacuation, delayed transit, or both. Management should aim to identify the extent of prolapse and degree of functional impairment. Almost all patients with occult prolapse should be treated conservatively. However, rare, markedly symptomatic patients with convincing evidence of occult prolapse may benefit from surgery. Abdominal fixation techniques are the abdominal operations of choice for fit patients with complete rectal prolapse. There is no evidence that addition of foreign material slings enhance the outcome of surgery. Considerable recent data support the use of a sigmoid resection in conjunction with rectal fixation, although this remains a contentious issue. Resection is not advised for patients with poor sphincter function associated with significant neuropathy. Patients with severe preoperative constipation require complete evaluation before surgery; those with documented slow-transit constipation may benefit from subtotal, rather than sigmoid colectomy, performed in conjunction with rectopexy. The Delorme operation and perineal rectosigmoidectomy are both acceptable choices for high-risk patients and patients who wish to avoid abdominopelvic dissection. Our preference is for the perineal rectosigmoidectomy, and we advocate associated levator plication at the time of surgery, particularly in incontinent patients. The Thiersch operation is associated with a high complication rate and should be avoided. The chief advantages of perineal over abdominal repair are avoidance of laparotomy and related complications, preservation of autonomic nerve function, avoidance of ureteric injury, and the ability to perform a concomitant sphincter or pelvic floor repair through the same incision. Laparoscopic prolapse repair is in its infancy with no data on long-term follow-up, making it impossible to evaluate its impact on the treatment of rectal prolapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Colon and Rectal Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


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