Objectives: To examine the diagnosis and treatment of chronic prostatitis, we conducted a national mail survey of practicing urologists in 1998.
Methods: Probability samples were drawn from the American Medical Association Registry of Physicians.
Results: Five hundred four urologists responded (response rate 64%). Urologists reported seeing a median of 30 patients (interquartile range 11 to 60) newly diagnosed with chronic prostatitis in the previous 12 months. Eighty percent of urologists responded that they "rarely" (47%) or "never" (33%) performed the Meares-Stamey four-glass diagnostic test. Only 4% answered "almost always." Forty percent of urologists responded that they treat "all" their patients with antibiotics and 42% more responded that they treat "more than half" with antibiotics. Physicians who routinely performed the four-glass test did not differ in antibiotic use from those who used the test less often; however, they were more likely to use treatment other than antibiotics. For example, alpha-blockers were used in one half or more of the patients by only 35% of physicians who never do the four-glass test compared with 42% who rarely do the test and 57% who do the test more often (P = 0.002). Results were similar for treatment with natural remedies.
Conclusions: Urologists frequently diagnose chronic prostatitis but rarely perform the four-glass diagnostic test. Use of the four-glass test does not appear to affect urologists' antibiotic treatment patterns. Although bacterial prostatitis is thought to be rare, antibiotic use in the population of men with prostatitis is not. The four-glass test and empiric antibiotics are practices in the diagnosis and treatment of prostatitis that deserve scrutiny.