The Digital Rectal Examination: A Multicenter Survey of Physiciansʼ and Studentsʼ Perceptions and Practice Patterns
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OBJECTIVES: The digital rectal examination (DRE) may be underutilized. We assessed the frequency of DREs among a variety of providers and explored factors affecting its performance and utilization. METHODS: A total of 652 faculty, fellows, medical residents, and final-year medical students completed a questionnaire about their use of DREs. RESULTS: On average, 41 DREs per year were performed. The yearly number of examinations was associated with years of experience and specialty type. Patient refusal rates were lowest among gastroenterology (GI) faculty and highest among primary-care doctors. Refusal rates were negatively correlated with comfort level of the physician in performing a DRE. More gastroenterologists used sophisticated methods to detect anorectal conditions, and gastroenterologists were more confident in diagnosing them. Confidence in making a diagnosis with a DRE was strongly associated with the number of DREs performed annually. CONCLUSIONS: The higher frequencies of performing a DRE, lower refusal rate, degree of comfort, diagnostic confidence, and training adequacy were directly related to level of experience with the examination. Training in DRE technique has diminished and may be lost. The DRE's role in medical school and advanced training curricula needs to be re-established.
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