Don't Put That in Your Rectum

I Will Tell You Why


Over almost two decades as a nurse, I've found some crazy things in rectal cavities. A 2012 study on rectally inserted foreign objects backed up my suspicion that there are probably many more people that have a foreign object stuck and are too embarrassed to seek treatment versus people who actually seek treatment. Placing foreign bodies in the rectum has somehow become a part of history, documented as early as the 1600's.

In the study mentioned, the list of objects placed in the rectum was actually quite fascinating and exhaustive, ranging from eggplants to aerosol cans to light bulbs.

The nurse in me has to caution you: There is a reason for the rectal sphincter -- or the muscle that keeps everything that needs to be inside in, and everything that should be outside out. 

Rectal Anatomy

To fully explore why it is dangerous to insert items -- other than medically ordered rectal medications, such as a suppository --  into your rectum, we first need to endure a brief anatomy lesson. Rub your tongue up against your inner cheek. Feel the soft and smooth tissue? The tissues inside your rectum and distal colon -- the sigmoid colon -- are very much like your soft inner cheek.

These tissues can potentially be torn or punctured with rigid items that do not belong. Likewise, the ring of muscle that makes up your rectal sphincter is also damageable, if you have to force to insert an item (or it is involuntarily forced) past it.

The results of a damaged sphincter can potentially require surgical repair or fecal incontinence, which is the inability to control your bowel movements or gas. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Best case scenario, your doctor can lie you on your side and physically remove the object, as long as it is still in your rectum.

 Once an object has left your rectum and entered your sigmoid colon, there is a very good chance that you will need to have surgery to remove it. If the object is large or high up, your doctor might need to provide a nerve block to relax and numb your rectal sphincter, as well as some intravenous sedatives to help you relax and work with the process.

The first step in diagnosing the severity of your problem will require a very honest history from you. Your doctor can then pair your physical signs -- such as a fever or elevated heart rate -- with your shared history and decipher the acuteness of the situation. Fever, low blood pressure and elevated heart rate can indicate the presence of peritonitis, which is a very serious infection inside your abdominal cavity that will require immediate surgery and antibiotics.

When the object cannot be reached manually, your doctor can proceed in a few different ways. He or she might order a simple abdominal x-ray, that can show both free air signaling a perforation, as well as the object itself.

He or she may also order a computed tomography scan or a sigmoidoscopy. During a sigmoidoscopy, a camera is inserted rectally. If the object is located and it can be done safely, a small snare can hook the object and pull it out. 

Worst case scenario, you will have to be put under general anesthesia and have a laparotomy, which is a surgery that opens up your entire abdomen to search for and remove the object. This is a major surgery and the least commonly used way to remove rectally inserted foreign objects. 

If you believe you have something stuck in your rectum, please seek help immediately. Many studies show that people hope to expel the item naturally, or might even take laxatives or enemas to hurry the expulsion. Unfortunately, there is a chance that you can actually push the foreign object further into your colon or puncture the colorectal wall by trying to manipulate the object. 


Cologne, K.G. and Ault, G.T. (2012). Rectal Foreign Bodies: What Is the Current Standard? Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery. 25(04); 214-218. Accessed via PubMed on September 29, 2015.

Coskun, A., et al. (March 2013). Management of Rectal Foreign Bodies. World Journal of Emergency Surgery. Accessed online September 28, 2015.

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