The Meaning of Prolapse

What You Should Know About Prolapse in the Human Body

Surgeons in the OR. Photo: Getty Images

Definition: A prolapse is a medical condition where an organ or tissue falls out of place, or "slips down".

Prolapse Explained

There are many types of prolapse, where a body part moves out of its intended place in the body.  These prolapses may not cause any notable symptoms, and may be found during an examination for another issue.  In other cases, a prolapse can cause significant discomfort, can decrease the ability of the body to function well.


Prolapse is more common in people with connective tissue disease, which weakens the attachment points of tissues in the body.  Other types of prolapse, such as a uterine prolapse, are associated with life events including delivering a very large baby or multiple pregnancies.  

Types of Prolapse

A prolapse can happen in many areas of the body.  A rectal prolapse, when severe, can lead to the intestine beginning to protrude from the anus.  Essentially, the large intestine is no longer held in place properly and begins to slip outside the body.  

A uterine prolapse is similar, the uterus and potentially other pelvic organs are no longer well attached the structures of the abdomen and begin to slip down into the vagina, and potentially out of the body.  The uterus begins to invert (turn inside out) and fall down. This can cause significant problems, making it difficult to urinate, causing pain, an inability to have intercourse and many other problems.

 In most cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem. A hysterectomy may be performed for a prolapsed uterus.

The mitral valve in the heart is also known to prolapse, a condition that is often first noted during a checkup when the healthcare provider is listening to the heart sounds with a stethoscope.

Who Performs the Surgery to Correct Prolapse

The surgery done to treat prolapse will depend on the nature of the prolapse itself.  A cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in open heart surgery would likely perform the repair on the mitral valve while a colon-rectal surgeon would likely perform the rectal prolapse repair. 

Pronunciation: pro-laps

Also Known As: uterine prolapse, rectal prolapse, prolapsed,

Examples: After the patient was diagnosed with uterine prolapse, she had to decide if a hysterectomy was the right treatment for her.

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