The diagnostic value of digital rectal examination in primary care screening for prostate cancer: A meta-analysis

Arjen Hoogendam, Frank Buntinx*, Henrica C.W. De Vet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective. This systematic review examines the diagnostic value of the digital rectal examination (DRE) for the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Method. Only studies relating to unselected populations and using either biopsy or surgery as the reference standard were included. The methodological quality of the studies was used in an attempt to explain differences between studies. Results. Fourteen studies were eligible for selection, of which five complied with the predetermined list of 'good-quality' requirements. Between study heterogeneity was high, even within the group of high-quality studies, and could not be explained by the registered indicators of methodological quality. Conclusions. In this setting, the DRE appears to be a test with a high specificity and negative predictive value, but a low sensitivity and positive predictive value. Neither a positive nor a negative test result is sufficient to enable conclusions without further confirmation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-626
Number of pages6
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999

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