Endocervical culture

Alternative names
Vaginal culture; Female genital tract culture; Culture - cervix; Culture - endocervix

Definition
Endocervical culture is a laboratory test which involves taking samples from the endocervix and using them to isolate and identify the organisms causing infection in the female genital tract.

How the test is performed
During a vaginal examination, a scraping of mucus and cells is taken from the endocervix (the opening of the uterus). Smears are placed on slides or culture media (or both) depending on the suspected cause of infection. The specimens are observed for growth and examined under a microscope. Special stains or biochemical reagents may be used to identify specific organisms in certain types of culture tests.

How to prepare for the test
Preparations for a vaginal examination include emptying your bladder (an empty bowel is also preferrable), disrobing from the waist down, placing your feet in the stirrups on the examination table, and covering your lower body with the drape or sheet which is provided.

How the test will feel
There will be some pressure from the speculum, an instrument which is inserted into the vagina to hold the birth canal open to observe the cervix and collect the specimen. There may be a slight cramping sensation when the cervix is touched by the swab.

Why the test is performed
The test may be performed to determine the cause of vaginitis, an unusual vaginal discharge, or other signs of infection. It is also used to screen for sexually transmitted diseases.

Normal Values
Vaginal microorganisms that are normally present are present in the expected amounts.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results indicate the presence of an infection in the female genital tract. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex, E. coli, C. trachomatis, group A streptococcus, or other microorganisms may be detected by culture.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

What the risks are
There are no risks.

Special considerations
Not applicable.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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