Merck Manual

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Rectum and Anus

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The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019| Content last modified Sep 2019
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Your digestive system breaks food down into separate nutrients that fuel your body.

Your digestive tract (also called the gastrointestinal or GI tract) is the hollow tube that food goes through when you swallow it, digest it, and then pass the waste products as stool.

What are the rectum and anus?

Your rectum and anus are part of your digestive tract. The rectum connects your large intestine to your anus. The rectum is usually empty, because stool is stored in the large intestine. When the intestine gets full, the stool passes into the rectum, and you feel like you need to go to the bathroom. Healthy adults and older children can wait to pass the stool until they reach a bathroom. Infants and young children, and some adults with neurologic or muscle conditions, don't have the muscle control to wait.

The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where stool comes out. A ring of muscles called the anal sphincter keeps your anus closed until you go to the bathroom.

Locating the Rectum and Anus

Locating the Rectum and Anus
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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