Mechanical mapping of the prostate in vivo using Dynamic Instrumented Palpation; towards an in vivo strategy for cancer assessment

Robert L Reuben, Steven J. Hammer, Olufemi Johnson, Daniel W. Good, Javier Palacio-Torralba, Antonio Candito, Yuhang Chen, Simon Phipps, Will Shu, S. Alan McNeill

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A calibrated palpation sensor has been developed for making instrumented Digital Rectal Examinations (iDREs) with a view to assessing patients for prostate cancer. The instrument measures the dynamic stiffness of the palpable surface of the prostate, and has been trialled on 12 patients in vivo. The patients had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and were scheduled for radical prostatectomy. As far as possible, patients with asymmetric disease were chosen so as to give a variation in gland condition over the palpable surface. The device works by applying an oscillating pressure (force) to a flexible probe whose displacement into the tissue is also measured in order to yield a dynamic stiffness, the static stiffness being incidentally measured at the mean oscillatory force. The device was deployed mounted on the index finger of a urologist and measurements taken at 12–16 positions on each patient using light and firm pressure and palpation frequencies of 1 or 5 Hz. In parallel, conventional DRE assessments were made by a consultant urologist for cancer. After in vivo measurement, the glands were removed and examined histologically with each palpation point being classified as cancerous (C) or not (NC). The work has established the first measurements of static modulus of living prostate tissue to be: 26.8 (13.3) kPa for tissue affected by prostate cancer (C classification), and 24.8 kPa (11.9) for tissue unaffected by cancer (NC classification), values quoted as median (interquartile range). The dynamic properties were characterised by: dynamic modulus, 5.15 kPa (4.86) for the C classification and 4.61 kPa (3.08) for the NC classification and the time lag between force and displacement at 5 Hz palpation frequency, 0.0175 s (0.0078) for the C classification and 0.0186 s (0.0397) for the NC classification, values again quoted as median (interquartile range). With the limited set of features that could be generated, an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) classification yielded a sensitivity of 97%, negative predictive value of 86%, positive predictive value of 67% and accuracy of 70% but with relatively poor specificity (30%). Besides extending the feature set, there are a number of changes in probe design, probing strategy and in mechanics analysis, which are expected to improve the diagnostic capabilities of the method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-584
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date16 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Prostate cancer diagnosis
  • dynamic stiffness
  • elastic modulus
  • in vivo
  • relaxation time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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