The fluid is placed in a special dish in the laboratory. It is watched for growth of bacteria or other organisms. This is called a culture.
How the Test will Feel
You are not involved in the test once the sample is taken.
Why the Test is Performed
Your health care provider may order this test if you have signs of too much bacteria growing in the intestinal tract. In most cases, other tests are done first. This test is rarely done outside of a research setting. In most cases, it has been replaced by a breath test that checks for excess bacteria in the small bowel.
Normally, small amounts of bacteria are present in the small intestine and they do not cause disease. However, the test may be done when your doctor suspects that excess growth of intestinal bacteria is causing diarrhea.
No bacteria should be found.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be a sign of infection.
There are no risks associated with a laboratory culture.
Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.