Rectal Prolapse in Children

Topic Overview

Rectal prolapse in children most commonly happens before the age of 4, and usually before age 1. Boys and girls are equally likely to develop the condition.

A child's risk for rectal prolapse may increase because of a structural problem in the digestive system. Other conditions that increase a child's risk for rectal prolapse include:

  • Increased abdominal pressure. Rectal prolapse may develop in a child who frequently strains during bowel movements, such as from problems with long-term (chronic) constipation. Pressure from forceful coughing spells, such as those caused by whooping cough (pertussis) or long-term lung disease from cystic fibrosis, may also lead to rectal prolapse.
  • Short-term or long-term diarrhea.Giardiasis or Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection may cause short-term diarrhea. Conditions that prevent proper food absorption, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, may cause long-term diarrhea.
  • Parasitic diseases.Parasites such as whipworms increase the risk of prolapse.
  • Cystic fibrosis. This disease of the mucous glands is associated with conditions throughout the body, including digestive problems. About 20 out of 100 children with rectal prolapse will be children who have cystic fibrosis.1 A child who has rectal prolapse with no obvious cause may need to be tested for cystic fibrosis.
  • Pelvic floor weakness. Weakness of these muscles, which stretch across the floor of the pelvis, may be linked with damage caused by nerve disorders or spinal cord deformities (such as spina bifida). Or pelvic floor weakness may occur after pelvic surgery.
  • Malnutrition. Across the world, lack of proper nutrition may be the most common cause of rectal prolapse in children. This is especially true in underdeveloped countries. Malnutrition prevents children from developing supportive tissues around the rectum.
  • Hirschsprung's disease. The birth defect Hirschsprung's disease affects muscular contractions of the bowel. This can lead to rectal prolapse.
  • Not having an opening in the anus (imperforate anus). The surgery to repair an imperforate anus can make rectal prolapse more likely.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Gearhart SL (2012). Diverticulitis disease and common anorectal disorders. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2502–2510. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer C. Dale Mercer, MD, FRCSC, FACS - General Surgery
Last Revised April 15, 2013

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