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Digital Rectal Examination


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Digital rectal examination (DRE) is a manual diagnosis procedure that your doctor performs on the anus to view its internal condition as well as that of the pelvis and lower portion of your stomach. Many complications associated with the pelvic region can be detected through digital rectal examination.


Why is Digital rectal examination performed?

Digital rectal examination is done under the following circumstances. 

  • To check for growths in the rectum, like polyps, fibroids, haemorrhoids, tumours and cancer.
  • For detecting anal fissures, fistula, rectal prolapse, swollen blood vessels in the rectum.
  • For checking enlargement and other abnormalities in the prostate gland of men. It’s a screening test for prostate cancer.
  • It is done as part of physical examination for colorectal cancer, warts, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease and other complications in pelvic organs.
  • It could be a part of routine gynaecological exam for women.


How is Digital rectal examination performed?

Your doctor will wear gloves in his hands and apply some generous amount of lubrication gel so that his finger glides smoothly through the anal passage. He will insert his finger through the anus and reach the organs in the proximity to find out the underlying abnormality.


How to prepare for Digital rectal examination?  

Digital rectal examination is a simple procedure and you do not require any preparations for it. You need to change your clothes with a hospital gown. You will either be asked to sit or lie upside down with your feet in stirrups. Another position is the fetal posture wherein you have to pull your knees towards your chest. 

Before performing the procedure, your doctor will ask you to relax and maintain normal breathing. You should be at ease and not feel nervous.

If you are a woman, your doctor or nurse would make you feel comfortable by all means.


How does the test feel like?

When your doctor pushes his finger from behind, you would be experiencing pressure, mild discomfort and pain, which is bearable. Your doctor might ask you to squeeze the muscle of your anus, he might press your abdomen or ask you to do so. 

If you are undergoing a prostate examination, then your doctor will feel the gland by applying varied amount of pressure on it in order to figure out the complication.

You might get an urge to pass on urine or bowel during the examination. However, since the examination barely lasts for a few minutes or so, you can control it.


What happens after the test?

You will be released from the hospital the same day itself and you can resume normal activities preferably from the next day. You might feel dizzy for a while i.e. immediately after the exam. Your doctor or the nurse will be cleaning off the gel or blood (if present) from the skin.

If any abnormality has been determined then your doctor would recommend further diagnostic tests to confirm the medical condition that you are suffering from.


Are there any risks associated with the procedure?

Digital rectal examination is completely safe. The only thing you need to watch for is bleeding which usually should not occur from the test but it can result from your medical problem. Let your doctor know about it. 

Digital rectal examination is one of the simplest and successful ways to determine the aforementioned health issues.  

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 16, 2014

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