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Routine sputum culture

Definition

Routine sputum culture is a test of secretions from the lungs and bronchi (tubes that carry air to the lung) to look for bacteria that cause infection.

Alternative Names

Sputum culture

Why the Test is Performed

The culture is done on the sputum to help identify the bacteria that are causing an infection in the lungs or airways (bronchi).

How the Test is Performed

You will cough deeply and spit any sputum into a sterile cup. The sputum is then taken to the laboratory. There, it is placed in a special substance (medium) under conditions that allow the bacteria or fungi to grow.

How to Prepare for the Test

Drinking a lot of water and other fluids the night before the test may help to get the sample.

How the Test Will Feel

You will need to cough. Sometimes the health care provider will tap on the chest to loosen deep sputum. There may be a steam-like mist to inhale to help you cough up the sample.

Risks

There are no risks with this method of obtaining a sample.

Considerations

Sometimes a gram stain or AFB stain of the sputum done at the same time can help make the diagnosis.

Normal Results

No presence of disease-causing organisms in the sputum is normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results will be reported as a positive culture. That means that there is a disease-producing organism found that may help diagnose:

Other conditions under which the test may be performed:


Review Date: 11/12/2007
Reviewed By: Arnold L. Lentnek, M.D., Division of Infectious Disease, Kennestone Hospital, Marietta. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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