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What is the Rectosigmoid Colon?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The rectosigmoid colon is an often overlooked part of the digestive system. It is located near the end of the large intestine and serves to join the distal, or most distant, part of the sigmoid colon to the rectum. It is at this point in the digestive system that the large intestine, or colon, transitions into the rectum. It comprises only a small portion of the large intestine, but the rectosigmoid serves an important function as a connection point between the sigmoid colon and the rectum. Without the healthy functioning of the rectosigmoid, many health complications, including constipation, could develop.

The sigmoid colon, the portion of the colon situated above the rectosigmoid, also is referred to as the pelvic colon. It is located on the lower left area of the abdomen. This part of the colon measures approximately 16 inches (40 cm) in length and is responsible for creating strong contractions that are aimed at creating and maintaining high pressure in the colon. It is this action that is utilized by the body to regulate the movement of stool into the rectum.

The formation of diverticuli is common because of the high pressure in the sigmoid colon. Diverticuli are pockets or projections that sometimes form in the colon, and they can lead to such symptoms as pain or discomfort, nausea, constipation or even diarrhea. The presence of these diverticuli is known as diverticulosis. Increasing fiber intake is often a good choice for this condition, and other dietary changes sometimes are necessary as well. In rare cases, surgery becomes necessary, so proper medical care is essential when there are any intestinal concerns present.

As the rectosigmoid part of the colon leaves the sigmoid portion of the colon, it leads into the rectum, which is located at the end of the intestinal tract. It measures approximately 5 inches (12 cm) in length and serves as a temporary storage spot for feces before it leaves the body. Pressure inside the rectum causes the rectum to shorten as feces is emptied from the body through the anus. Both internal and external sphincter muscles are part of the anal canal. These muscles are used to stretch the anus over the fecal material leaving the intestines so that it can be removed from the body.

The complete function of the rectosigmoid portion of the colon itself is not fully understood in the medical community. At the very least, however, it serves to connect very important portions of the large intestine. As such, it is a vital part of human anatomy.

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Discussion Comments
By julies — On Jun 08, 2012

@LisaLou - For most people they recommend a colonoscopy at the age of 50. If you have a family history of problems then you should be checked earlier than that.

I have had both a sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy done. When I had the colonoscopy done, they found some colon polyps they removed. These were sent to the lab to see if they were malignant or not.

Thankfully, the polyps were benign, and I was encouraged to add more fiber to my diet. Making sure you consume enough fiber on a daily basis can really help keep the area of your colon and rectosigmoid healthy.

By LisaLou — On Jun 08, 2012

How soon does someone need to be checked for something like colon cancer? There is no history of colon cancer in my immediate family, but I have had rectosigmoid colitis before.

This is very painful and before it was diagnosed, I was afraid that I had cancer. I was only in my 20's when I had this and it only happened the one time.

As long as I am not having any problems, I would like to put off having a colonoscopy as long as possible. I also know this is something that is much easier to treat if it is found early, than if you wait too long to check it out.

By SarahSon — On Jun 07, 2012

My dad was having a lot of problems with constipation and digestion. When he saw blood in his stool, he knew he needed to be checked right away.

I have heard this can be one of the most obvious colon cancer symptoms. If someone sees this, they should not wait to see if it will go away, but make an appointment with their doctor right away.

My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, but they were able to catch it early and his treatment was successful. That was over 25 years ago, and his cancer has never returned.

By andee — On Jun 06, 2012

When my husband was having some problems with hemorrhoids, he had to have some tests done to determine what the problem was.

Because he has a history of colon cancer in his family, his doctor had a sigmoidoscopy done which let him see what was happening inside this area of his body.

This is similar to a colonoscopy, but does not go as far up, and concentrates more on the rectosigmoid area. Fortunately this test was negative and they didn't have to do any further testing.

When you know you have a history of colon cancer like this in your family, your first thoughts are that this is bad news. Since this test was negative, he was then advised to have a regular colonoscopy done in a couple of years.

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