Lymph node culture

Alternative names
Culture - lymph node

Lymph node culture is a laboratory test performed on a lymph node to identify organisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungus) that cause infection.

How the test is performed
A needle aspiration or biopsy of an enlarged lymph node (swollen glands) is obtained. The fluid is placed in culture media and observed for growth in the laboratory. Sometimes special stains are also done.

How to prepare for the test
There is no special preparation.

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 site may be numbed with a local anesthetic before the node is aspirated. There may be some pain when the needle is inserted into the lymph node.

Why the test is performed
The test may be performed if the cause of swollen glands is not known, and infection is suspected.

Normal Values
No growth is normal.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results indicate that infectious microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungus are present.

Suspicion of atypical mycobacterial infection is an additional condition under which the test may be performed.

What the risks are
There is a risk of bleeding or infection.

Special considerations
Not applicable.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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