Stool smear

Alternative names
Fecal smear

Fecal smear is a laboratory test to screen the feces for organisms that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and diseases.

How the test is performed
Adults and children:
There are many ways to collect the samples. You can catch the stool on plastic wrap that is loosely placed over the toilet bowl and held in place by the toilet seat. Then, put the sample in a clean container. One test kit supplies a special toilet tissue that you use to collect the sample, then put the sample in a clean container.

Infants and young children:
For children wearing diapers, line the diaper with plastic wrap. If the plastic wrap is positioned properly, isolating the stool from any urine output, mixing of urine and stool can be prevented for a better sample.

A small amount of a feces sample is applied to a microscope slide and examined for the presence of abnormal organisms. A stain may be applied that highlights certain organisms under the microscope.

How to prepare for the test
A collection container will be provided for the stool specimen. Return the sample to the laboratory as soon as possible. The sample should not include toilet tissue or urine.

How the test will feel
There is no discomfort.

Why the test is performed
The test is performed as a screening tool to detect the presence of abnormal organisms in the gastrointestinal tract. It may be performed if severe, persistent, or recurrent diarrhea of an unknown cause is present. The results can be used to determine antibiotic therapy.

Normal Values
Normal intestinal organisms are present.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal intestinal organisms may indicate a gastrointestinal infection.

What the risks are
There are no risks.

Special considerations
Other tests may indicate more specific causes of infection.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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