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The Physiology of Human Defecation


Human defecation involves integrated and coordinated sensorimotor functions, orchestrated by central, spinal, peripheral (somatic and visceral), and enteric neural activities, acting on a morphologically intact gastrointestinal tract (including the final common path, the pelvic floor, and anal sphincters). The multiple factors that ultimately result in defecation are best appreciated by describing four temporally and physiologically fairly distinct phases. This article details our current understanding of normal defecation, including recent advances, but importantly identifies those areas where knowledge or consensus is still lacking. Appreciation of normal physiology is central to directed treatment of constipation and also of fecal incontinence, which are prevalent in the general population and cause significant morbidity.

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Correspondence to Somnath Palit.

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Palit, S., Lunniss, P.J. & Scott, S.M. The Physiology of Human Defecation. Dig Dis Sci 57, 1445–1464 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-012-2071-1

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  • Defecation
  • Rectal evacuation
  • Physiology of defecation
  • Rectal sensorimotor function
  • Colonic motor activity