A sputum culture is a test that looks for bacteria or other organisms that may cause an illness in your lungs or the airways that lead to your lungs. Sputum, commonly known as phlegm, is a thick mucus produced by your lungs. If you have an infection or a persistent sickness that affects your lungs or airways, you may cough up phlegm.
Sputum is distinct from spit or saliva. Sputum includes immune system cells that aid in the battle against bacteria, fungi, and other foreign items in your lungs or airways. The thickness of sputum aids in the trapping of foreign particles. This permits cilia (tiny hairs) in the airways to push it into the mouth and out through the coughing reflex.
Sputum can come in a variety of hues. The colour of sputum can help you determine what sort of infection you have or whether a chronic ailment has worsened:
This normally indicates that there is no disease present, but significant quantities of clean sputum may indicate lung disease.
Gray or white
This is also normal, but excessive levels may indicate lung illness.
Green or dark yellow
This frequently indicates a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia. Yellowish-green sputum is also prevalent in cystic fibrosis patients.
This is frequently seen among smokers. It is also a symptom of black lung disease. Black lung disease is a dangerous ailment that can develop after prolonged exposure to coal dust.
This might indicate pulmonary edema, a disease where excess fluid accumulates in the lungs. In persons with congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema is prevalent.
This might be a precursor to lung cancer. It might also indicate a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal disorder in which a blood clot from the leg or another region of the body breaks free and travels to the lungs.
Alternative names: respiratory culture, bacterial sputum culture, routine sputum culture
What is the use of sputum culture?
A sputum culture is commonly used to:
- Identify bacteria or fungi that may be causing a lung or airway infection.
- Check to see if a chronic lung disease has become worse.
- Check to see whether your infection therapy is working.
A Gram stain is frequently used in conjunction with a sputum culture.
What is the need for a sputum culture?
If you have signs of pneumonia or any serious infection of the lungs or airways, you may require this test. These are some examples:
What happens during a sputum culture?
A sample of your sputum will be required by your doctor. During the examination:
- A healthcare practitioner will guide you to take a deep breath and cough into a particular cup.
- To assist in releasing sputum from your lungs, your physician may tap you on the chest.
- If you're having difficulties coughing out enough phlegm, your doctor may suggest inhaling a salty mist to help you cough more deeply.
- If you can still cough up enough sputum, your physician may do a bronchoscopy. With this process, you will be given a relaxing numbing medication to prevent pain.
- A small, illuminated tube will then be inserted via mouth or nose and into your airways.
- A little brush or suction will be used by your physician to obtain a sample from your airway.
How to prepare for the test?
Before the sample is taken, you may need to rinse your mouth with water. If you are scheduled for a bronchoscopy, you may be requested to fast (not eat or drink) for one to two hours before the procedure.
Is there any risk in the test?
There is no danger in putting a sputum sample in a container. If you underwent a bronchoscopy, your throat might be slightly painful afterward.
What do the findings imply?
If your findings were normal, it implies that no potentially hazardous bacteria or fungi were discovered. If your findings are abnormal, you may have a bacterial or fungal infection. Further tests may be required by your provider to determine the precise sort of illness you have. The most prevalent types of pathogenic bacteria discovered in sputum cultures include:
A positive sputum culture result might indicate a flare-up of a chronic illness such as cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Important information to know about sputum cultures?
Sputum is sometimes known as phlegm or mucus. Although all of the phrases are valid, sputum and phlegm exclusively apply to mucus produced in the respiratory system (lungs and airways). Mucus is a sort of sputum (phlegm). Mucus can also be produced in other parts of the body, such as the urinary or vaginal tract.