Rectal suppository: commonsense and mode of insertion

Lancet. 1991 Sep 28;338(8770):798-800. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)90676-g.


Rectal suppository is a well-known form of medication and its use is increasing. The commonest shape is one with an apex (pointed end) tapering to a base (blunt end). Because of a general lack of information about mode of insertion, we asked 360 lay subjects (Egyptians and non-Egyptians) and 260 medical personnel (physicians, pharmacists, and nurses) by questionnaire which end they inserted foremost. Apart from 2 individuals, all subjects suggested insertion with the apex foremost. Commonsense was the most frequent basis for this practice (86.9% of lay subjects and 84.6% of medical personnel) followed by information from a relative, a friend, or medical personnel, or from study at medical school. Suppository insertion with the base or apex foremost was compared in 100 subjects (60 adults, 40 infants and children). Retention with the former method was more easily achieved in 98% of the cases, with no need to introduce a finger in the anal canal (1% vs 83%), and lower expulsion rate (0% vs 3%). The designer of the "torpedo-shaped" suppository suggested its insertion with apex foremost. Our data suggest that a suppository is better inserted with the base foremost. Reversed vermicular contractions or pressure gradient of the anal canal might press it inwards.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anal Canal / physiology*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Self Administration / methods*
  • Suppositories / administration & dosage*


  • Suppositories