Rectal prolapse remains a disorder for which the cause is not clearly understood and the best method of management is debated. Because the natural history of prolapse frequently leads to complications of incontinence and constipation, we believe that all patients presenting with internal and external prolapse should be considered for repair. Although the type of operative repair recommended may vary, it is clear that all patients with external rectal prolapse should be offered some type of repair. What is not clear from the literature is the appropriate management of those patients with internal prolapse. As shown in the George Washington University experience, surgery is rarely performed for isolated internal prolapse. Most patients who present with internal prolapse also have an associated enterocele, rectocele, or cystocele. Repair of the internal prolapse and the associated disorder may benefit many of these patients. If internal prolapse is an isolated finding, it is not clear to what extent the prolapse is responsible for the patient's symptoms, and repair is generally not advised. These guidelines are easy to enumerate but may be difficult to practice in some patients. Therefore, ongoing evaluation of clinical results is critical to improve our understanding of these disorders. This discussion has outlined the current theories of the cause of rectal prolapse, the symptoms and findings patients present with, and the possible approaches to repair.
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