What is this test?

    This test detects and identifies bacteria from a culture of sputum. This test is used to help diagnose possible bacterial causes of respiratory tract infections such as community acquired pneumonia.

    Why do I need this test?

    Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have: 

    •    Acute chest syndrome

    •    Acute exacerbation of pulmonary cystic fibrosis

    •    Aspiration pneumonitis

    •    Community acquired pneumonia

    •     Pneumonic plague

    How should I get ready for the test?

    Before a sputum sample is collected, you may be asked to drink more fluids. Drinking more fluids may help you produce a sputum sample.

    For this test, a sputum sample is obtained before taking an antibiotic. Tell your doctor if you are taking any medications at the time of the test.

    How is the test done?

    Sputum is mucus that is secreted by the airways and lungs. To collect a sample of sputum, you may be asked to cough forcefully, and spit out sputum into a container. If you are unable to produce a sputum sample, you may need to have the sample induced. To induce a sputum sample, a doctor will prepare a solution in a nebulizer for you to inhale. You will be asked to inhale the solution over a period of time, which may last up to 20 minutes. You will then be asked to cough and spit out sputum into a container.

    How will the test feel?

    The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the test. Inform the person doing the test if you feel that you cannot continue with the test.

    Generally, collection of a sputum sample is not painful. If the sample is induced, the coughing may be uncomfortable.

    What should I do after the test?

    After a sputum sample is collected, call the doctor if you experience a new onset of pain in your throat, trouble swallowing, or if you are coughing up blood.



    You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

    © 2017 Truven Health Analytics LLC

    Click the link for more information on Respiratory Medicine Clinical Service



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