The Rectum

The rectum is the final 20 cm of the digestive tract and the final 3 cm of this is known as the anal canal. The rectum can accommodate about 400 ml of stool.

The anal canal ends with the anus, which has two sphincters: the internal sphincter of smooth muscle and the external sphincter, which is made up of skeletal muscle. The anal canal is lined by mucosal epithelium above the anal verge and squamous epithelium below. The anus is kept closed, except for the action of defecation, by the tone of the external sphincter. In some people, however, for a variety of reasons the sphincter loses its tone and can become weak resulting in incontinence.

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