AIM: To investigate whether the degree of rectal distension could define the rectum functions as a conduit or reservoir.
METHODS: Response of the rectal and anal pressure to 2 types of rectal balloon distension, rapid voluminous and slow gradual distention, was recorded in 21 healthy volunteers (12 men, 9 women, age 41.7 ± 10.6 years). The test was repeated with sphincteric squeeze on urgent sensation.
RESULTS: Rapid voluminous rectal distension resulted in a significant rectal pressure increase (P < 0.001), an anal pressure decline (P < 0.05) and balloon expulsion. The subjects felt urgent sensation but did not feel the 1st rectal sensation. On urgent sensation, anal squeeze caused a significant rectal pressure decrease (P < 0.001) and urgency disappearance. Slow incremental rectal filling drew a rectometrogram with a “tone” limb representing a gradual rectal pressure increase during rectal filling, and an “evacuation limb” representing a sharp pressure increase during balloon expulsion. The curve recorded both the 1st rectal sensation and the urgent sensation.
CONCLUSION: The rectum has apparently two functions: transportation (conduit) and storage, both depending on the degree of rectal filling. If the fecal material received by the rectum is small, it is stored in the rectum until a big volume is reached that can affect a degree of rectal distension sufficient to initiate the defecation reflex. Large volume rectal distension evokes directly the rectoanal inhibitory reflex with a resulting defecation.