Types of rectal prolapse

Picture of normal rectum and complete prolapse of rectum
Picture of partial prolapse and internal prolapse of rectum

Rectal prolapse happens when loose tissue in the rectum slides downward. The loose tissue may partially or completely stick out of the anus.

There are three types of rectal prolapse:

  • Complete prolapse. Part of the wall of the rectum slides down and sticks out from the anus. At first, this may occur only during a bowel movement. In later stages, the prolapse may happen when the person stands or walks. Or it may stay outside the body all the time.
  • Partial prolapse (also called mucosal prolapse). Only the lining of the rectum slides down. The lining of the rectum usually comes out of the anus only when the person strains to have a bowel movement. Partial prolapse is most common in children younger than 2. A partial prolapse can sometimes be confused with hemorrhoids.
  • Internal prolapse. One part of the wall of the large intestine or rectum slides over another part of the rectum, like the folding parts of a telescope. The rectum does not protrude outside the anus. Internal prolapse is most common in children.

Treatment for rectal prolapse depends on the type of prolapse. Treatment may include changes in diet. Or it may include medicines or surgery.

Last Updated: November 27, 2009

Author: Monica Rhodes

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & C. Dale Mercer, MD, FRCSC, FACS - General Surgery

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