Effect of digital rectal examination and needle biopsy on serum total and percentage of free prostate specific antigen levels

David K. Ornstein, Ganesh S. Rao, Deborah S. Smith, Timothy L. Ratliff, Joseph W. Basler, William J. Catalona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Purpose: We determined the effect of digital rectal examination and prostatic biopsy on serum total and free prostate specific antigen (PSA) concentrations in men undergoing screening for prostate cancer. Materials and Methods: In 93 men recruited from our PSA screening program we measured the serum concentrations of total and free PSA on 3 occasions during a 30-day interval before performing digital rectal examination. Total and free PSA measurements were repeated 1 and 24 hours after the rectal examination. Serum total and free PSA also was measured immediately before, and 1 hour, 24 hours and 1 week after prostatic biopsy in 30 men. Results: Biological variation for total and free PSA was 14.7 and 14.0%, respectively. At 1 hour after rectal examination total and free PSA increased by more than the biological variation in 31 and 48% of the men, respectively. Increases were significantly greater in men whose initial PSA concentrations were less than 4.0 ng./ml. There was a dramatic increase in total and percentage of free PSA in all men 1 hour after prostatic biopsy. Increases in percentage of free PSA were greater in men whose biopsies revealed cancer. Total PSA remained elevated for at least 1 week in most men, while percentage of free PSA returned to within or less than the biological variation of the baseline level in 90% of the men by 24 hours. Conclusions: Digital rectal examination causes a modest increase in total and percentage of free PSA. Prostate needle biopsy causes more dramatic increases in both forms of PSA. Free PSA is preferentially released into the serum after prostatic manipulation and appears to be cleared more rapidly than complexed PSA. The differential return of the different PSA forms to baseline levels after biopsy could affect the use of measurements of the percentage of free PSA in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-198
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • biopsy
  • prostate-specific antigen
  • prostatic neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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