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Colon and rectal diseases encompass a broad range of conditions that can vary from mildly irritating to life threatening. Research shows that early screening and treatment of colon and rectal diseases can significantly improve outcomes and survival rates. Yet, many patients delay or don't seek treatment because they may not recognize the symptoms, understand the benefits of early treatment or are too embarrassed to seek help.

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Our expert colorectal surgeons have completed advanced training in surgical and non-surgical treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus as well as full general surgical training. Our surgeons work closely with your gastroenterologist or referring provider to offer a comprehensive treatment plan. Board-certified, our surgeons are well versed in treatment of both non-cancerous and cancerous diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. They perform routine screening examinations as well as specialize in minimally invasive and robotic surgery for colon and rectal cancers, including the removal of tumors.

Our surgeons perform colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies (a procedure that allows a doctor to look inside your colon to check for ulcers, abnormal cells and polyps) and anoscopies (internal examination to detect anal disorders).

Conditions We Treat

Anal Fissures

An anal fissure is a split in the tissues that line your anal canal causing pain or bleeding, especially during bowel movements. Anal fissures can be common in infants and pregnant people. A visit with a colon and rectal specialist will help diagnose an anal fissure through a physical exam.


Most anal fissures go away on their own or with prescription cream. If an anal fissure is present for an extended period of time, medical intervention such as surgery may be needed.

Anal Fistula

An anal fistula is an infected tunnel that develops under the skin between the skin of the buttocks and anal canal in the colon. This condition is a reaction due to infection that starts in an anal gland and results in an abscess (puss-filled infection). A tunnel forms under the skin connecting to the infected gland, forming an anal fistula.

Some conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Colitis, chronic diarrhea and radiation treatment for rectal cancer can affect the lower digestive tract and increase the risk of developing an anal fistula.


An anal fistula may not always be visible, as they can close on their own and then reopen. A visit with a colon and rectal specialist will help diagnose an anal fistula through a physical exam, imaging tests or a colonoscopy.


Surgery is the best treatment for an anal fistula as there are currently no medications to cure it. Antibiotics can help to treat an anal fistula, but surgery is the most effective treatment in curing the condition. There are various surgical treatment options depending on location and severity of the anal fistula.

Anal or Rectal Abscess

An anal abscess develops when a collection of pus forms near the anus. Often these are a result of infection from small anal glands. A visit with a colon and rectal specialist will help diagnose anal fissure through a physical exam and screening for sexually transmitted infections, inflammatory bowel disease or diverticular disease.


Surgical drainage of the abscess is important before the abscess erupts. Medications or antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Anorectal Diseases

Anorectal disease is the name given to a group of conditions of the anus or rectum that are often painful. Most commonly, these conditions include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, anal warts, anal fistulas and anorectal abscesses and more.

Depending on which condition you might be experiencing, you will need a physical exam and likely an endoscopic examination of the lower colon, rectum and anus. Treatment options for anorectal disease usually include dietary and lifestyle changes, physical therapy or surgery for more persistent infections and symptoms. Treatment and recovery depend on the type and severity of the condition.

Colorectal Cancer

Sometimes, a small growth, called a polyp, can form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Although many polyps are benign (not cancerous), some become cancerous. Our Gastrointestinal Cancers Program provides all gastrointestinal cancer patients with a truly multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of their complex disease. For early non-advanced rectal cancers, surgery may be recommended. For more advanced disease, care is tailored specifically to the patient and their disease and can include a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Physicians in the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program care for patients with gastric bile duct, gallbladder, gastrointestinal, colon and rectal cancers.


Most often, a colonoscopy will be the most accurate way to diagnose rectal cancer. After diagnosis, your doctor will determine the stage of cancer by taking a tissue sample or biopsy. The patient will then need a series of images taken to determine if the cancer has spread and have a complete colonoscopy.


Treatment begins with the initial evaluation to determine further care. This starts with a history and a rectal exam to evaluate the tumors relationship to the sphincter complex. CT scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis along with a complete colonoscopy are done to look for metastasis or spread of the disease. Surgery will depend on various factors like age, health, stage and grade of the tumor, and location of the tumor.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. This disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss.


There is no single test to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Your doctor will rule out other causes or conditions to help confirm the diagnosis by performing:

  • Blood tests
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Capsule Endoscopy
  • Balloon-assisted enteroscopy


Crohn’s disease requires a multidisciplinary approach between gastroenterologists and surgeons to manage the condition. Treatment varies greatly depending on the symptoms and their severity. Treatments for Crohn’s Disease aim to help reduce inflammation and symptoms that arise. With consistent treatment, the goal is to limit any complications and improve prognosis. Therefore, treatments may need to be adjusted for effectiveness.


Diverticular disease occurs due to the formation of diverticula, which are sacs or pouches, in the colon. Diverticulitis can develop as a result of diverticular disease. These sacs or pouches become blocked or filled by a piece of stool in the colon, leading to inflammation or infection and causing pain. Diverticular disease is correlated with a diet high in red meat, refined sugars and milled flour.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

The majority of patients with diverticulosis remain asymptomatic, but some experience bloating, constipation, bowel irregularity and abdominal discomfort. There is no definite connection of diverticular disease and cancer, but a colonoscopy should be performed for certain patients to determine if colorectal cancer is present.

Diverticulitis symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps or tenderness near stomach
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea

Diverticulitis can reoccur, called recurrent diverticulitis, or can become complicated diverticulitis, which is severe inflammation, abscess or damage.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Mild cases of diverticulitis are treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the diverticulitis, hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and at times surgery may be required.

Laboratory blood work can reveal evidence of inflammation. Diagnosis is determined based on a person’s symptoms and medical history and may include a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis. Surgery is decided upon with the patient, their family and the treating physician and surgeon. If a free perforation, or small hole, is detected surgery is usually required. If there is an abscess (swollen area of body tissue containing puss), it may need to be drained by interventional radiology and occasionally a drain will be temporarily left in place to continue antibiotic treatments.

We have a team of enterostomal therapists dedicated to optimizing your care and recovery.

We routinely perform minimally invasive surgery for diverticulitis if the condition is serious or if the patient is experiencing repeated episodes of diverticulitis. Traditional “open” surgery is for very complicated cases or when a minimally invasive approach is not feasible.

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal Incontinence, also known as anal incontinence, is the passage of gas or feces without control. Normally continence occurs through the interaction between sensory nerves, sphincter muscle control, pelvic floor muscular coordination and stool consistency. When one or more of these elements fails, incontinence can result.

This condition can occur when experiencing diarrhea and is typically chronic or recurring. It can also occur in people who may not be aware that they need to pass a stool. The most common cause is prior obstetric trauma, but there are many other possible causes including sphincter damage from prior surgery, nerve damage to the pelvic floor, or hemorrhoids.


Thorough examination and visual inspection is performed to diagnose fecal incontinence, along with various tests to help determine the cause.


Initial evaluation and treatment begin with a thorough history and exam, along with measures such as diet change, stool bulking, exercises or therapies, and antimotility medications. Patients who do not respond to initial approaches may need additional testing such as manometry or ultrasound evaluation of their sphincter complex. Successful surgical treatment depends on the underlying cause.


Hemorrhoids are a normal part of our anatomy and are located internally and externally around the anal canal and the anal opening. Hemorrhoids are recognized when bleeding, protrusion or itching occurs. In a normal state, they cause no symptoms.


Your doctor can diagnose hemorrhoids through rectal exam. A short-lighted probe, called an anoscope, may be used to examine the inside of the anal canal where internal hemorrhoids are located. Some cases might need a colonoscopy to ensure symptoms are not related to a more serious condition in your rectum or colon. A colonoscopy may be needed to ensure symptoms are not related to a more serious condition in your rectum or colon.


Most hemorrhoid symptoms improve with dietary and lifestyle changes or with medication. Other alternatives are rubber band ligation, infrared coagulation, sclerotherapy and surgical hemorrhoidectomy. Typically, hemorrhoids do not need surgery because as the blood clot dissolves, the external hemorrhoid will shrink.

Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain occurs in the lower part of the stomach area and pelvis. This pain can stem from the reproductive, urinary or digestive system and can spread to the lower back, buttocks or thighs. This type of pain can be intermittent or chronic. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, it is recommended you speak with your doctor.


Treatments may include anti-inflammatory and/or pain medicines, relaxation exercises, physical therapy or surgery.

Pilonidal Disease

Pilonidal Disease is an infection caused by ingrown hair that becomes imbedded in the skin, creating a pit that leads to inflammation. An ingrown hair can develop into a pilonidal cyst, abscess or sinus. Most people with this condition develop an abscess, which will turn into a pilonidal sinus.


A pilonidal infection is usually visible and easily identified by a doctor. On occasion, a CT scan is needed to look for sinus cavities under the skin’s surface.


These often spontaneously drain or require a small incision to drain. If patients develop a mature cyst with recurrent abscess and drainage, formal surgical treatment is an option. Surgery may be needed, if pilonidal disease progresses to the sinus stage.

Pruritus Ani

Pruritus ani, or anal itching, is a common skin condition characterized by itching or burning around the anus. Many things including, irritants or fecal incontinence and long-term (chronic) diarrhea can irritate the skin, causing anal itching. Infections, skin conditions and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, hemorrhoids and anal tumors can cause Pruritus ani.


A physical or digital rectal exam may be required. Persistent anal itching could be due to a skin condition or other health issue that will require medical treatment.


Through examination and a review of your medical history and habits, a doctor will be able to diagnose the cause of itching. Treatment for anal itching depends on the source of the irritation. Anti-itch creams or treatments for an infection are common.

Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse occurs if the rectum moves from its normal place within the body and pushes out of the anal opening. This can happen due to weakening of the muscles supporting the rectum.


Treatment can start with steps to avoid constipation and straining. If your rectal prolapse is severe, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery.


A rectocele is a type of prolapse where the supportive wall of tissue between a woman’s rectum and vaginal wall weakens. Without the support of the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments, the front wall of the rectum moves and bulges into the vagina, or in severe cases, protrudes out of the vaginal opening.


Your doctor will consider the severity of your symptoms to recommend the most appropriate treatment, which can include pelvic floor exercises and bowel training. More serious cases are often treated with a vaginal pessary (a support device inserted into the vagina) or rectocele repair (a minimally invasive surgical procedure).

Yale School of Medicine

Yale New Haven Health is proud to be affiliated with the prestigious Yale University and its highly ranked Yale School of Medicine.