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Skin and Wound Cultures

How To Prepare

You do not need to do anything before you have this test. If you are taking or have recently taken antibiotics, tell your doctor.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

To collect a tissue or fluid sample from a wound, a sterile swab is inserted into the wound. The health professional collecting the sample may press around the wound and gently turn the swab to collect as much tissue or fluid as possible. The swab is then placed into either an aerobic or anaerobic culture tube or both, depending on the type of organism suspected.

A needle may be used to collect fluid from a wound that is covered (scabbed-over) or from an abscess. The fluid is then placed in the culture tube.

Your doctor may need to remove a sample of skin or tissue (biopsy) for testing. If collecting the sample is likely to cause pain, you may be given a shot to numb the area (local anesthetic) first.

Once a sample is collected, it is placed in a container with a substance (called growth medium or culture medium) that helps bacteria, fungus, or viruses grow.

  • Bacteria usually need about 1 to 2 days to grow.
  • Fungi usually need several days to grow.
  • Viruses need to be placed in a container with living cells and can take weeks to grow.

Any bacteria, fungi, or viruses that grow will be identified with a microscope, chemical tests, or both. If sensitivity testing is done to help make decisions about treatment, more time will be needed.

How It Feels

If you have a sample of fluid or tissue collected from a wound, you may feel some pain when the sample is collected. You may feel a short, sharp sting if you are given a shot of anesthetic to numb the area where the culture sample will be taken.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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