Update on the Pathophysiology and Management of Anorectal Disorders

Gut Liver. 2018 Jul 15;12(4):375-384. doi: 10.5009/gnl17172.


Anorectal disorders are common and present with overlapping symptoms. They include several disorders with both structural and functional dysfunction(s). Because symptoms alone are poor predictors of the underlying pathophysiology, a diagnosis should only be made after evaluating symptoms and physiologic and structural abnormalities. A detailed history, a thorough physical and digital rectal examination and a systematic evaluation with high resolution and/or high definition three-dimensional (3D) anorectal manometry, 3D anal ultrasonography, magnetic resonance defecography and neurophysiology tests are essential to correctly identify these conditions. These physiological and imaging tests play a key role in facilitating a precise diagnosis and in providing a better understanding of the pathophysiology and functional anatomy. In turn, this leads to better and more comprehensive management using medical, behavioral and surgical approaches. For example, patients presenting with difficult defecation may demonstrate dyssynergic defecation and will benefit from biofeedback therapy before considering surgical treatment of coexisting anomalies such as rectoceles or intussusception. Similarly, patients with significant rectal prolapse and pelvic floor dysfunction or patients with complex enteroceles and pelvic organ prolapse may benefit from combined behavioral and surgical approaches, including an open, laparoscopic, transabdominal or transanal, and/or robotic-assisted surgery. Here, we provide an update on the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of selected common anorectal disorders.

Keywords: Constipation; Defecation; Pelvic floor; Rectal diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anal Canal / physiopathology
  • Defecation / physiology
  • Defecography
  • Digital Rectal Examination
  • Disease Management*
  • Humans
  • Rectal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Rectal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Rectal Diseases / therapy*