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This paper seeks to quantify finger palpation techniques in the prostate clinical exam, determine their relationship with performance in detecting abnormalities, and differentiate the tendencies of nurse practitioner students and resident physicians. One issue with the digital rectal examination (DRE) is that performance in detecting abnormalities varies greatly and agreement between examiners is low. The utilization of particular palpation techniques may be one way to improve clinician ability. Based on past qualitative instruction, this paper algorithmically defines a set of palpation techniques for the DRE, i.e., global finger movement (GFM), local finger movement (LFM), and average intentional finger pressure, and utilizes a custom-built simulator to analyze finger movements in an experiment with two groups: 18 nurse practitioner students and 16 resident physicians. Although technique utilization varied, some elements clearly impacted performance. For example, those utilizing the LFM of vibration were significantly better at detecting abnormalities. Also, the V GFM led to greater success, but finger pressure played a lesser role. Interestingly, while the residents were clearly the superior performers, their techniques differed only subtly from the students. In summary, the quantified palpation techniques appear to account for examination ability at some level, but not entirely for differences between groups.
Information Technology in Biomedicine, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:14 , Issue: 4 )
Date of Publication: July 2010