Digital Rectal Examination

A digital (finger) rectal examination is done to check for problems with organs or other structures in the pelvis and lower belly. During the examination, the doctor gently puts a lubricated, gloved finger of one hand into the rectum. He or she may use the other hand to press on the lower belly or pelvic area.

The digital rectal examination is a relatively simple procedure. The patient undresses, then is placed in a position where the anus is accessible (lying on the side, squatting on the examination table, bent over the examination table, or lying down with feet in stirrups). During this procedure, areas which can be palpated are: bulb of penis, urogenital diaphragm, anorectal ring, etc. However, structures like the ureter and urethra cannot be palpated.

If the patient is lying on his side, the physician will usually have them bring one or both legs up to their chest. If the patient bends over the examination table, the physician will have them place their elbows on the table and squat down slightly. If the patient uses the supine position, the physician will ask the patient to slide down to the end of the examination table until their buttocks are positioned just beyond the end. The patient then places their feet in the stirrups.

The physician spreads the buttocks apart and will usually examine the external area (anus and perinium) for any abnormalities such as hemorrhoids, lumps, or rashes. Then, as the patient relaxes, the physician slips a lubricated finger into the rectum through the anus and palpates the insides for approximately sixty seconds.