Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 1445–1464 | Cite as

The Physiology of Human Defecation

  • Somnath PalitEmail author
  • Peter J. Lunniss
  • S. Mark Scott


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.


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


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Somnath Palit
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Peter J. Lunniss
    • 1
  • S. Mark Scott
    • 1
  1. 1.Academic Surgical Unit (GI Physiology Unit)Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary UniversityLondonUK
  2. 2.GI Physiology UnitRoyal London Hospital, Wingate Institute of NeurogastroenterologyLondonUK

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