Professional Reference articles are designed for health professionals to use. You may find one of our health articles more useful. Rectal examination is an important part of the abdominal examination and genitourinary examination. It is important in examining for gastrointestinal disease but also for the detection of disease in other pelvic organs. It is an intimate physical examination which should be conducted correctly for detection of disease and patient comfort. Findings should be accurately and correctly recorded.
An annual pelvic exam is recommended for all women and can consist of some or all of the following procedures: the external genital exam, the speculum exam, the bimanual exam, and the recto-vaginal exam. Gynecologists will sometimes perform a rectovaginal exam in addition to a normal pelvic exam. To do this, your doctor will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the vagina and another from the same hand into the rectum. He or she will then palpate examine by feeling the abdomen with the free hand.
The digital rectal exam is a physical examination of the rectum, the last few inches of the bowel, just above the anus. The doctor uses a gloved and lubricated finger to check for abnormalities of the anus and rectum. It takes about one to two minutes and, although it may cause some mild discomfort, it should not be painful. By feeling through the rectal wall, the doctor can also examine the surface of the prostate gland in men and some of the reproductive organs in women.
Back to Health A to Z. A rectal examination is where a doctor or nurse uses their finger to check for any problems inside your bottom rectum. It's usually very quick and you shouldn't feel any pain. Men sometimes need a rectal examination to check for problems with the prostate. Your doctor or nurse should explain what's going to happen and why you need a rectal examination.