St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Sputum Gram stain

    Gram stain of sputum

    A sputum Gram stain is a laboratory test used to detectbacteria in a sputum sample. Sputum is the material that comes up from your air passages when you cough very deeply.

    The Gram stain method is one of the most commonly used methods to rapidly detect a bacterial infection, including pneumonia.

    How the Test is Performed

    A sputum sample is needed. You will be asked to cough deeply and spit any material that comes up from your lung into a special container.

    • If this does not work, you may receive a breathing treatment before the test to help you cough more deeply.
    • If you have a dry cough or are unable to produce a sample, a bronchoscopy may be necessary.

    The sample is sent to a lab. The lab team member places a very thin layer of the sample onto a glass slide. This is called a smear. Stainsare placed on the sample. The lab team member looks at the stained slide under a microscope, checking for bacteria and white blood cells. The color, size, and shape of the cells help identify the bacteria.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    No preparation is usually needed, unless a bronchoscopy is necessary.

    How the Test Will Feel

    How the test will feel depends on the method used to produce the sample. More discomfort is associated with a bronchoscopy.

    Why the Test is Performed

    Your doctor may order this test if you have a persistent or prolonged cough, or if you are coughing up material that has a foul odor or unusual color. The test may also be done if you have other signs and symptoms of respiratory disease or infection.

    Normal Results

    A normal result means that few to no white blood cells and no bacteria were seen in the sample. The sputum is clear, thin, and odorless.

    Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    An abnormal results means that bacteria is seen in the test sample. You may have a bacterial infection. A culture is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

    Risks

    There are no risks associated with coughing up a sample. See the article on bronchoscopy for information regarding risks related to that procedure.

    Considerations

    The test may need to be repeated if the sample contains only saliva from the mouth.

    References

    Limper AH. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 280.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Sputum test

      illustration

      • Sputum test

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Sputum Gram stain

          Review Date: 12/6/2011

          Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile