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Rectal foreign bodies

Scott R Steele, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Joel E Goldberg, MD, FACS
Section Editor
Martin Weiser, MD
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


Rectal foreign bodies can present a difficult diagnostic and management dilemma. They can be caused by a wide variety of objects, lead to variable degrees of local trauma to the surrounding tissues, and can be associated with perforation or delayed injury. Further complicating management is the variable degree to which patients are willing to disclose the underlying cause leading to their presentation and the frequently long delay before they seek medical attention. As a result, recognition and management require a systematic approach.


Published experience with rectal foreign bodies is based mainly on single-center case series (table 1). Studies of adults have suggested that most patients are men (65 to 100 percent) who are in their thirties or forties (range 16 to 94 years) [1-3].

The incidence is not known precisely, but rectal foreign bodies are seen regularly in most large hospitals. As an example, in a report from the University of California of patients seen between 1993 and 2002, approximately one patient per month received care for a rectal foreign body [4].


Placement has been categorized as voluntary versus involuntary (eg, rape, assault) and sexual versus nonsexual.

Involuntary nonsexual foreign bodies often involve children or patients who are mentally ill. They have also resulted from medical instruments such as thermometers or enema tips, and, uncommonly, from per-oral ingestion of objects that become lodged in the colon (eg, bones, toothpicks, and small objects such as erasers or broken plastic utensils).

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 12, 2017.
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