Surgeons perform rectocele repair on women who experience vaginal discomfort, incontinence or other problems from weakness in the vaginal muscles. In a rectocele, pressure from the rectum creates a bulge in the fibrous wall of the vagina, a state known as prolapse. Rectocele repair involves reinforcing the weakened areas to correct the prolapse, but the Patient Education Institute cautions that in rare cases, nerve damage from the procedure can lead to new health problems. Rectocele sufferers may find other, non-surgical treatment options adequate for their needs.
Rectocele belongs to a family of conditions called prolapse---when muscle weakness allows an organ or other internal body part to move from its correct position. In many cases, the body part will press against another part. Women can suffer from various types of prolapses that stress the intestines, the rectum and vagina. Side effects, according to Women's College Hospital, range from simple discomfort to pain during intercourse, urinary leakage, constipation, back pain and bleeding.
A rectocele describes a prolapse in which a part of the rectum bulges through a weakness in the facia, or tissue fibers, of the vaginal wall. Childbirth, physical strain or menopause challenge the wall and can allow a rectocele to form, reports the Mayo Clinic, which also warns that while smaller rectoceles may cause no obvious problems, larger ones can make bowel movements difficult.
According to Better Health Victoria, surgeons have several techniques for adding strength to the wall separating the vagina from the rectum, and may perform surgery through either location. Heavy-duty stitches repair the wall while strengthening the muscles supporting the pelvic floor. The surgeon may also stitch the muscles between the vagina and rectum, or perineum, to add strength to this area. A flexible tube called a urinary catheter allows urine to pass from the bladder during recovery.
According to the Patient Education Institute, most rectocele surgeries prove successful, with known but minimal complications---bleeding, infection, bladder or rectal damage, and the risk of additional prolapses. Among these potential issues, nerve damage occurs very rarely, but it may lead to long-term physical impairment. Damage to the reproductive nerves, for instance, can cause sexual problems, while the American College of Gastroenterology has stated that nerve damage in the rectal area leads to loss of bowel control.
Even if you have a rectocele or other type of prolapse, you may not require surgery unless it seriously impacts your life. Women's College Hospital says sexually active women may have more vaginal discomfort from a rectocele than sexually inactive women, and minor urinary leakage causes more annoyance for some women than others. Exercises and proper diet ease some symptoms, the hospital says, or a device called a pessary can reinforce the vaginal walls. Serious constipation or incontinence, however, may signal a clear need for surgical intervention.