What happens after an elevated PSA test: The experience of 13,591 veterans

Steven B. Zeliadt, Richard M. Hoffman, Ruth Etzioni, Van Anh T. Ginger, Daniel W. Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The occurrence and timing of prostate biopsy following an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test varied considerably in randomized screening trials. OBJECTIVE: Examine practice patterns in routine clinical care in response to an elevated PSA test (=4 ng/μl) and determine whether time to biopsy was associated with cancer stage at diagnosis. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. PARTICIPANTS: All veterans (n=13,591) in the Pacific Northwest VA Network with a PSA=4 ng/μl between 1998 and 2006 and no previous elevated PSA tests or prostate biopsy. MAIN MEASURES: We assessed follow-up care including additional PSA testing, urology consults, and biopsies. We compared stage at diagnosis for men who were biopsied within 24 months vs. those men biopsied and diagnosed >24 months after the elevated PSA test. KEY RESULTS: Two-thirds of patients received follow- up evaluation within 24 months of the elevated PSA test: 32.8% of men underwent a biopsy, 15.5% attended a urology visit but were not biopsied, and 18.8% had a subsequent normal PSA test. Younger age, higher PSA levels, more prior PSA tests, no copayment requirements, existing urologic conditions, low body mass index, and low comorbidity scores were associated with more complete follow-up. Among men who underwent radical prostatectomy, a delayed diagnosis was not significantly associated with having a pathologically advanced-stage cancer (T3/T4), although we found an increased likelihood of presenting with stage T2C relative to stage T2A or T2B cancer. CONCLUSIONS: Follow-up after an elevated PSA test is highly variable with more than a third of men receiving care that could be considered incomplete. A delayed diagnosis was not associated with poorer prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1205-1210
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Prostate biopsy
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
  • Rostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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