Culture - esophageal biopsy

Alternative names
Esophageal biopsy culture

Esophageal biopsy culture is a laboratory test to identify organisms causing infection from a specimen obtained by a biopsy of the esophagus.

How the test is performed

A sample of esophageal tissue is placed on culture media for the purpose of growing microorganisms (bacteria, fungus, or viruses) in the laboratory which will later be identified.

A microbiologist in the laboratory inspects the cultures daily for growth. If microorganisms are detected, other tests may be done to determine the sensitivity of the organisms to medications. The best antimicrobial therapy can often be determined based on these results.

How to prepare for the test
The sample of tissue is usually obtained by EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy), a procedure in which a scope is passed into the esophagus. Fast for at least 6 hours before the test. Remove all jewelry. You will wear a hospital gown. The test may be performed in a specialist’s office or special procedures area of an outpatient facility or hospital.

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:

How the test will feel

The large tube placed down your mouth and throat is used to view the esophagus and take the biopsy. You are given sedatives, analgesics (pain relievers), and muscle relaxants before the procedure to eliminate much of the discomfort.

You are relaxed, but awake enough to cooperate with instructions. The specimen is obtained through the scope with special instruments. The tube is then removed. Some numbness remains until the anesthetic wears off, then sore throat may be noticed for 1 or 2 days. Food and fluid are not allowed until after the gag reflex returns to prevent choking.

Why the test is performed
The test is performed when infection of the esophagus is suspected, an ongoing infection does not respond to treatment, other disease of the esophagus or gastrointestinal tract is suspected or present, or unidentified infection is present.

Normal Values
No organisms on the culture after an appropriate growth period is normal.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results indicate an infection of the esophagus. The infection may be bacterial, viral, or fungal. The causative organism and an effective medication to treat the organism, if available, may be indicated in the results.

What the risks are
The risks are related to the procedure of EGD and are mainly discomfort. A small risk of bleeding or infection is also present.

Special considerations
Other endoscopic procedures or tests may be performed in conjunction with an esophageal biopsy culture.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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