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J Fam Pract. 1998 Feb;46(2):165-7.

Diagnostic utility of the digital rectal examination as part of the routine pelvic examination.

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  • 1Harrisburg Family Practice Residency Program, PA 17105-8700, USA.


The digital rectal examination (DRE) is an uncomfortable procedure that adds time to the routine pelvic examination. Patients may postpone or defer their pelvic examination because of this discomfort. Although commonly recommended and performed, there is little evidence that this screening test provides unique or useful information. The goal of this project was to determine the diagnostic yield of routine DRE in otherwise healthy female patients who were younger than 40 years of age at the time of the examination. A total of 272 DREs were documented. Case findings were recorded in 8 (3%) of the patients. One notation reflected a previous diagnosis of ulcerative colitis; the rest of the findings were incidental. None of these findings were categorized as diagnostic, producing a diagnostic yield of 0 (95% confidence interval, 0 to 1.35). The results of this study do not support the continued use of the DRE as part of the routine pelvic examination in women younger than 40 years old.

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