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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

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.

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).

Normal Values

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

What abnormal results mean

If the sputum sample is abnormal, the results are called "positive." Identifying disease-producing organisms may help diagnose:

Other conditions under which the test may be performed:

What the risks are

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

Special considerations

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

References

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    Review Date: 10/15/2009

    Review By: Daniel Levy, MD, Infectious Disease, Maryland Family Care, Lutherville, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. 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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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