Digital rectal examination (DRE)

Healthy prostate tissue is soft, like the fleshy tissue of the hand where the thumb joins the palm. Malignant tissue is firm, hard, and often asymmetrical or stony, like the bridge of the nose. If the examination reveals the presence of unhealthy tissue, additional tests are performed to determine the nature of the abnormality.

AUA Symptom Index

The AUA (American Urological Association) Symptom Index is a questionnaire designed to determine the seriousness of a man's urinary problems and to help diagnose BPH. The patient answers seven questions related to common symptoms of BPH. How frequently the patient experiences each symptom is rated on a scale of 1 to 5. These numbers added together provide a score that is used to evaluate the condition. An AUA score of 0 to 7 means the condition is mild; 8 to 19, moderate; and 20 to 35, severe.

Urodynamic Testing

Urodynamic tests, usually performed in a physician's office, are used to measure the volume and pressure of urine in the bladder and to evaluate the flow of urine. They are particularly useful for the diagnosis of intrinsic sphincter deficiency and uncertain cases of mixed, overflow, urgency, or total incontinence. Additional tests may be conducted if symptoms indicate that blockage is caused by a condition other than BPH.

Uroflowmetry is a simple test performed to record urine flow, to determine how quickly and completely the bladder can be emptied, and to evaluate obstruction. With a full bladder, the patient urinates into a device that measures the amount of urine, the time it takes for urination, and the rate of urine flow. Patients with stress or urge incontinence usually have a normal or increased urinary flow rate, unless there is an obstruction in the urinary tract. A reduced flow rate may indicate BPH.

A pressure flow study measures pressure in the bladder during urination and is designed to detect a blockage of flow. It is the most accurate way to evaluate urinary blockage. This test requires the insertion of a catheter through the urethra in the penis and into the bladder. The procedure is uncomfortable and rarely may cause urinary tract infection.

Post-void residual (PVR) less than 50 mL generally indicates adequate bladder emptying and measurements of 100 to 200 mL or higher often indicate blockage. Nervousness and other types of stress may affect the result; therefore, the test is often repeated.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 04 Oct 2003

Last Modified: 31 Aug 2015