High recovery rates of continence are observed after surgical procedures for rectal prolapse. Increases in rectal compliance but no obvious rise in anal pressures have been reported. The authors' hypothesis was that decreased rectal adaptation to distension may contribute to incontinence in patients suffering from overt rectal prolapse.Methods
This was a prospective study conducted in 20 consecutive incontinent patients suffering from overt rectal prolapse with no mucosal change (two men and 18 women; mean(s.e.m.) age 50(3) years). They were compared with 20 age- and sex-matched patients with incontinence without rectal prolapse and ten age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers observed during the same period. The subjects were submitted to phasic isobaric distension of the rectum with an electronic barostat. Anal pressures, perception scores and rectal volumes were recorded at six different preselected pressures.Results
Compared with healthy subjects, maximum rectal volumes (mean(s.e.m) 98(6) versus 167(11) ml; P = 0.005), volumes related to compliance (56(5) versus 100(9) ml; P = 0.004) and tone (41(3) versus 67(4) ml; P = 0.003) were decreased significantly in the rectal prolapse group. Prolapse and incontinence groups did not differ significantly with respect to rectal adaptation for all three parameters and steps of distension considered.Conclusion
Patients suffering from overt rectal prolapse had markedly impaired rectal adaptation to distension which may contribute to incontinence.