Surgical Anatomy of the Rectovaginal Space: Does a Standalone Rectovaginal Septum or Denonvilliers Fascia Exist in Women?

María García-Gausí*, Juan García-Armengol, Claudia Mulas Fernández, Gianluca Pellino, José V. Roig, Alvaro García-Granero, Vicente Pla-Marti, Francisco Martínez-Soriano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Below the anterior peritoneal reflection, the anterior rectal wall and mesorectum are separated from the posterior vaginal wall by a virtual rectovaginal space. In this space, the description of a specific and independent rectovaginal septum as a female counterpart of Denonvilliers fascia has been the subject of debate over the years. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to perform an accurate anatomical study of the rectovaginal area in a cadaveric simulation model of total mesorectal excision to evaluate the possible structures and the dissection planes contained within the rectovaginal space. DESIGN AND SETTING: This is a cadaveric study performed at the University of Valencia. PATIENTS: The pelvises of 25 formalin-preserved female cadavers were dissected. All the included specimens were sectioned in a midsagittal plane, at the level of the middle axis of the anal canal. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Careful and detailed dissection was performed to visualize the anatomical structures and potential dissection planes during anterior mesorectal dissection in cadavers. Histological sections were made of the posterior vaginal wall. RESULTS: The rectovaginal space contains loose areolar tissue that allows an easy dissection plane distally. A distinct and independent rectovaginal fascia or septum is not present. The existence of 3 layers fused together in the posterior vaginal wall can be identified more or less precisely because of their different coloration. The histological study confirms this macroscopic arrangement of the posterior vaginal wall in 3 layers: the mucosa, the muscular, and the adventitia. An independent rectovaginal septum can be generated only with a splitting of the adventitia. LIMITATIONS: The cadaveric pelvic specimens of the oldest donors might have had age-related degeneration. CONCLUSIONS: The present anatomical study has shown only a plane of loose areolar tissue between the rectal and vaginal wall. We can conclude that there is no independent fascia or septum in the rectovaginal space. See Video Abstract at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-582
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Publication statusAccepted in press - 2021


  • Anatomy
  • Cadaveric study
  • Colorectal
  • Denonvilliers
  • Rectovaginal septum
  • Surgical anatomy


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