Bile culture

Alternative names
Culture - bile

Bile culture is a test to detect infection in the biliary (liver secretion) tract.

How the test is performed
Through surgery or a procedure such as ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), a specimen of bile is obtained for examination in the laboratory. It is placed in culture media and observed for growth of microorganisms that are then identified. The specimen may be obtained during or after gallbladder surgery from a tube to drain bile. A specimen may possibly be obtained during a radiology procedure to evaluate the gallbladder or biliary (liver secretion) system.

How to prepare for the test
The culture is usually tested in association with another procedure or surgery (see the specific procedure).

Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
The method of sampling determines How the test will feel.

Why the test is performed
This test is performed to detect microorganisms within the biliary system.

Normal Values
No growth of the culture is normal.

What abnormal results mean
Organisms in the bile may indicate an infection.

What the risks are
The risks depend on the method used to obtain bile.

Special considerations
Not applicable.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

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