Phantom Rectum with IBD.

Phantom Rectum with IBD

I am sure most of you have never heard the term “phantom rectum” before – have you?

{Please comment below if you have!}

Since it was many years and surgeries following my ulcerative colitis diagnosis that I personally knew what this was, I am going to go ahead and explain what this strange sounding term is. According to Ostomy Medical Supplies, it can be defined as:

A “phan­tom rec­tal” sen­sa­tion is when the body feels as if it needs to evacuate—even though the rec­tum is no longer con­nected to the bowel. This is a normal, if dis­con­cert­ing, occur­rence sim­i­lar to the “phan­tom limb” sen­sa­tion reported by amputees. Some patients are able to relieve the sen­sa­tion by sit­ting on a toi­let and going through the motions of evacuation.


In other words, phantom rectum occurs in a person with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis when their rectum and anus have been removed. I would venture to guess most people who experience phantom rectum also are missing their large intestine/colon but I suppose a person could have a colostomy of some sort so I am not positive about that one.

I suffer from this feeling a great deal and it wasn’t until I actually told my doctor about it that I felt better about the situation. I know it can be a strange thing to bring up. I don’t remember my exact wording but I suppose it went something along the lines of:

Hey doc, even though I have an ostomy, I keep feeling like I have to go to the bathroom. It goes on for so long that eventually I do sit on the toilet and go through the motions of having a bowel movement until it subsides. Is that normal or do you have any explanation for why that would be occurring?”

Not quite the typical conversation starter.

I am not sure what actually causes this to happen for me individually, but I do know when I am feeling nervous or anxious about something, I experience this type of feeling. It hasn’t changed much since my anus and rectum were removed many, many years ago so I don’t believe it gets better or worse as time goes on. I think it is truly one of those things some patients might expect to feel after having that type of surgery.

I did want to bring this topic up in case you happen to be someone who does have these weird sensations and are unsure what to do about it. Or, perhaps you are worried something is wrong (I know I was) and therefore, I hope reading this provides you a little bit of comfort.

Obviously, if you do feel something is not right with your body, this article is not a substitute for medical treatment. But, if you have been feeling like you need to use the restroom even though you have been all sewn up down there, then you are probably experiencing phantom rectum.

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