Purpose: Although the digital rectal examination (DRE) is commonly performed to screen for prostate cancer, there is limited data to support its use in primary care. This review and meta-analysis aims to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of DRE in screening for prostate cancer in primary care settings.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, DARE (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) from their inception to June 2016. Six reviewers, in pairs, independently screened citations for eligibility and extracted data. Pooled estimates were calculated for sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) of DRE in primary care settings using an inverse-variance meta-analysis. We used QUADAS-2 (Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies 2) and GRADE (Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) guidelines to assess study risk of bias and quality.
Results: Our search yielded 8,217 studies, of which 7 studies with 9,241 patients were included after the screening process. All patients analyzed underwent both DRE and biopsy. Pooled sensitivity of DRE performed by primary care clinicians was 0.51 (95% CI, 0.36-0.67; I2 = 98.4%) and pooled specificity was 0.59 (95% CI, 0.41-0.76; I2 = 99.4%). Pooled PPV was 0.41 (95% CI, 0.31-0.52; I2 = 97.2%), and pooled NPV was 0.64 (95% CI, 0.58-0.70; I2 = 95.0%). The quality of evidence as assessed with GRADE was very low.
Conclusion: Given the considerable lack of evidence supporting its efficacy, we recommend against routine performance of DRE to screen for prostate cancer in the primary care setting.
Keywords: diagnosis; digital rectal examination; malignancy; primary health care; prostatic neoplasms.
© 2018 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.