purpose: A stool guaiac test is often performed on newly hospitalized patients as part of the admission evaluation. However, little is known regarding the value of testing stool obtained by digital rectal examination. We sought to document the use of the admission stool guaiac test in a teaching hospital, to determine its diagnostic yield, and to assess its potential benefit to patients. materials and methods: We performed a retrospective review of the medical records for 264 consecutive patients admitted to internal medicine services during a single month, of whom 202 received a stool guaiac test on admission. Information was collected on the frequency of guaiac testing, indications for testing, test results, and diagnoses established. results: Criteria were established to distinguish "clinically indicated" from "routine" use of the admission stool guaiac test. Indicated tests were positive more often than routinely performed tests (35% versus 11%, p <0.001). Most patients with positive tests received further testing for gastrointestinal disease, whether or not the test was indicated. Of 104 patients with indications, 25 were ultimately found to have gastrointestinal lesions, most of which were clinically important. Of 98 patients tested routinely, only four had diagnoses established, of whom three had benign conditions. Four of five patients with cancer had clinical indications for testing. The fifth was diagnosed only after he experienced gross rectal bleeding several days after admission. conclusions: Like other commonly applied diagnostic tests, the stool guaiac test obtained during the admission physical examination is best reserved for patients whose clinical presentation provides a reason for testing. In patients without clinical indications, the test is of uncertain value and only infrequently leads to important diagnoses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas