Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

SHP 08-165 – HSR Study

SHP 08-165
Pilot Study to Assess Gaps in Follow-Up for Suspicious PSA Tests
Steven B. Zeliadt, PhD MPH
VA Puget Sound Health Care System Seattle Division, Seattle, WA
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: June 2008 - September 2009
Timely follow up of suspicious screening tests for cancers other than prostate has been identified as an important priority in the VA. There is little information available about follow-up care for elevated PSA tests.

This study evaluated quality of care for elevated PSA results using electronic data and validated the findings with medical records abstraction. Specific study aims were:
Aim 1. Measure completeness of follow-up care among men in VISN20 with elevated PSA levels, including timeliness of follow-up and receipt of biopsy.
Aim 2. Validate database measures of follow-up care and assess non-VA care through a medical record abstraction audit.

Using the VISN20 data warehouse we identified13,591 Veterans between the ages of 40 and 74 who had an initial elevated PSA test result between the years 1998 and 2006, and examined the follow-up care they received after that elevated result. Subjects were classified as receiving complete or incomplete follow up care. Complete follow-up included receipt of biopsy, urology visit without a biopsy or repeat PSA test with a normal result (<4 ng/ml). Incomplete follow-up was defined as repeat PSA testing that remained elevated or no additional follow-up. A sample of 111 records was selected and abstracted to evaluate provider notes to determine whether patients received any additional follow-up care that was not documented in the electronic data. We compared stage at diagnosis for men who were biopsied within 2 years of the elevated test, and those who had delays of more than 2 years but were eventually diagnosed with prostate cancer over the study period, from 1998 through the end of 2008.

Within 24 months of the elevated PSA test, 33% of men underwent a biopsy, 16% were referred to urology but not biopsied, 19% had a subsequent normal PSA test, 19% had additional PSA tests that remained elevated with no subsequent referral to urology, and 14% had no follow-up. Younger age, higher PSA levels, more prior tests, urologic conditions, low body mass index, and low comorbidity scores were associated with less complete follow-up. A biopsy outside of the VA was identified in 8% of subjects in the chart audit (5 of 61) who had no biopsy recorded in the electronic database. After adjusting for covariates, men with a delayed diagnosis were more likely to have pathologically advanced-stage cancer (T2C/T3/T4) than those who were biopsied and diagnosed within 24 months of the elevated PSA test (76% vs. 61%, p<0.001).

There is considerable variation in follow-up practice for men under age 75 with elevated PSA test results within VISN20, with completeness of follow-up declining in more recent years. Clear and consistent guidelines for follow-up of elevated PSA tests is needed.

External Links for this Project

Dimensions for VA

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

Learn more about Dimensions for VA.

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
    Search Dimensions for this project


Journal Articles

  1. Zeliadt SB, Hoffman RM, Etzioni R, Ginger VA, Lin DW. What happens after an elevated PSA test: the experience of 13,591 veterans. Journal of general internal medicine. 2010 Nov 1; 25(11):1205-10. [view]
Journal Other

  1. Zeliadt SB, Ginger VA, Etzioni R, Lin DW. Follow up and biopsy patterns after elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests. [Abstract]. The Journal of urology. 2009 Apr 15; 181(4S):751-752. [view]
Conference Presentations

  1. Slatore CG, Zeliadt SB, Backhus LM, Kessler LG, Hu E, Au DH. A Comparative Effectiveness Study of Pre-operative PET Imaging and the Reduction of Unnecessary Lung Cancer Surgery. Paper presented at: VA HSR&D / QUERI National Meeting; 2012 Jul 18; National Harbor, MD. [view]
  2. Zeliadt SB, Hoffman RM, Etzioni R, Gore JL, Kessler KG, Lin DW. Declines in PSA utilization after the 2008 PSA screening guidelines and publication of U.S. and European screening trials. Presented at: American Urological Association Annual Meeting; 2010 May 29; San Francisco, CA. [view]
  3. Zeliadt SB. Follow-Up and Biopsy Patterns After Elevated Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Tests. Poster session presented at: American Urological Association Annual Meeting; 2009 Apr 1; Chicago, IL. [view]
  4. Zeliadt SB, Etzioni RD, Lin DW. Follow-up for Veterans after an Elevated Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). Paper presented at: VA HSR&D National Meeting; 2009 Feb 12; Washington, DC. [view]
  5. Zeliadt SB, Hoffman RM, Etzioni R, Ginger VA, Lin DW. Gaps in follow-up care after an elevated PSA test. Presented at: Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting; 2010 Apr 29; Minneapolis, MN. [view]
  6. Backhus LM, Zeliadt SB, Kessler L, Au DH. Temporal Trends in PET/CT Imaging and Impact on Surgical Resection among Veterans with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Presented at: Society of Thoracic Surgeons Annual Meeting; 2012 Jan 29; Ft. Lauderdale, FL. [view]

DRA: Aging, Older Veterans' Health and Care, Health Systems
DRE: Prevention
Keywords: Cancer, Prostate disease, Screening
MeSH Terms: none

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.