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Routine sputum culture

Sputum culture

 

Routine sputum culture is a laboratory test that looks for germs that cause infection. Sputum is the material that comes up from air passages when you cough deeply

How the Test is Performed

 

A sputum sample is needed. You will be asked to cough deeply and spit any phlegm that comes up from your lungs into a special container. The sample is sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture). It is then watched to see if bacteria or other disease-causing germs grow.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

Drinking a lot of water and other fluids the night before the test may make it easier to cough up the sputum.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

You will need to cough. Sometimes the health care provider will tap on your chest to loosen deep sputum. Or, you may be asked to inhale a steamlike mist to help you cough up the sputum. You may have some discomfort from having to cough deeply.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

The test helps identify the bacteria or other type of germs that are causing an infection in the lungs or airways (bronchi).

 

Normal Results

 

In a normal sputum sample there will be no disease-causing germs.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

If the sputum sample is abnormal, the results are called "positive." Identifying the bacteria, fungus, or virus may help diagnose the cause of:

  • Bronchitis (swelling and inflammation in the main passages that carry air to the lungs)
  • Lung abscess (collection of pus in the lung)
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Flare up of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis

 

Risks

 

There are no risks with this test.

 

 

References

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Culture, routine. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:409-411.

 
  • Sputum test

    Sputum test - illustration

    A sputum sample is obtained by coughing deeply and expelling the material that comes from the lungs into a sterile cup. The sample is taken to a labarotory and placed in a medium under conditions that allow the organisms to grow. A positive culture may identify disease-producing organisms that may help diagnose bronchitis, tuberculosis, a lung abscess, or pneumonia.

    Sputum test

    illustration

    • Sputum test

      Sputum test - illustration

      A sputum sample is obtained by coughing deeply and expelling the material that comes from the lungs into a sterile cup. The sample is taken to a labarotory and placed in a medium under conditions that allow the organisms to grow. A positive culture may identify disease-producing organisms that may help diagnose bronchitis, tuberculosis, a lung abscess, or pneumonia.

      Sputum test

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Routine sputum culture

         

         

        Review Date: 11/1/2015

        Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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