Goals: The objective of our investigation was to examine the clinical utilization of digital rectal examination (DRE) and fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) at hospital admission.
Background: DRE at the time of hospital admission is frequently accompanied by FOBT. However, the utility of DRE with FOBT in this setting is unknown.
Study: The study cohort comprised consecutive admissions to an internal medicine service over a 3-month period. Patient characteristics were compared for subjects by DRE performance and FOBT result. Follow-up endoscopic procedures within 1 year of admission were recorded.
Results: Complete data were available for 806 of 832 patients (96.9%). Three hundred forty eight patients underwent DRE on admission (43.2%). Patients undergoing DRE/FOBT were older (mean age 60.4±18.4 y vs. 55.0±19.6 y, P<0.001). Patients with gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding symptoms (relative risk 11.2, 95% confidence interval 5.47-23.0) or a past history of GI bleeding (relative risk 2.98, 95% confidence interval 1.93-4.58) were more likely to undergo DRE/FOBT. Among 130 (37.4%) patients with a positive FOBT, 72 (51.6%) had no history of GI bleeding symptoms; these patients were substantially less likely to undergo follow-up examination(s) than patients with a positive FOBT and a history of GI bleeding symptoms (30.6% vs. 82.8%, P<0.001).
Conclusions: In this cohort, patients with a past history of GI disease or symptoms were more likely to undergo FOBT. Follow-up evaluation of positive FOBT in the absence of GI bleeding symptoms was very low. Low utilization and follow-up rates may limit the utility of admission DRE with FOBT for cancer screening.