How It Is Done continued...
Take the sealed container to your doctor's office or the
laboratory as soon as possible. You may need to deliver your sample to the lab
within a certain time. Tell your doctor if you think you may have trouble
getting the sample to the lab on time.
You may need to collect
several stool samples over 7 to 10 days if you have digestive symptoms after
traveling outside the country.
Samples from babies and young
children may be collected from diapers (if the stool is not contaminated with
urine) or from a small-diameter glass tube inserted into the baby's rectum
while the baby is held on an adult's lap.
Sometimes a stool sample
is collected using a rectal swab that contains a preservative. The swab is
inserted into the rectum, rotated gently, and then withdrawn. It is placed in a
clean, dry container and sent to the lab right away.
How It Feels
Collecting a stool sample does not
normally cause any discomfort.
If your doctor collects the stool
sample using a cotton swab, you may feel some pressure or discomfort as the
cotton swab is inserted into your rectum.
There is no chance for problems while collecting
a stool sample. Be sure to wear gloves when you collect the sample and wash
your hands before and after you collect the sample. This will help protect you
from spreading an infection.
A stool culture is done to identify
bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that may be causing an infection. Stool
culture test results usually take 2 to 3 days.
No disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria,
viruses, fungi, or parasites are present or grow in the culture.
Bacteria (such as
salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, certain types of
Escherichia coli[E. coli], or
Yersinia enterocolitica) grow in the culture. Fungi or
parasites such as Giardia lamblia are found.
If bacteria are found in the culture,
sensitivity testing may be done to help choose the
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- Recent use of antibiotics, medicine (such as
bismuth) to control diarrhea, enemas, or laxatives.
- Recent X-ray
tests using a
contrast material containing barium.
stool sample that is mixed with urine.
- Not collecting a
large enough sample.
- Not getting the stool sample to the lab for
testing quickly enough.
What To Think About
- A stool culture may be ordered if you have
diarrhea and drank untreated well or lake water or have been traveling to a
rural area or outside of the country.
- You may still have an
infection even if your stool culture test is normal.
testing helps your doctor choose the best treatment for the specific disease or
- A stool sample may be tested for
parasites such as pinworms, roundworms, tapeworms and
the protozoan Giardia that causes
giardiasis. The parasites or their eggs can often be
seen during an examination of the stool sample under a microscope. For more
information, see the topics
- A stool sample can also be
- A stool analysis is a series of tests done on a
sample of stool to help diagnose certain conditions affecting the digestive
tract, including infection, poor absorption, or cancer. For more information,
see the topic