Urine culture - catheterized specimen

Alternative names
Culture - urine - catheterized specimen; Urine culture - catheterization; Catheterized urine specimen culture

Catheterized urine specimen culture is a procedure to obtain a urine sample through a catheter (a thin rubber tube) inserted through the urethra into the bladder. The urine is obtained by this method to avoid contamination from the urethra, or if urine cannot be collected by the clean catch method.

How the test is performed
Adults and children:
A nurse or a trained technician may perform the test. First, the area around the opening of the urethra is thoroughly washed with an antiseptic solution. A well-lubricated catheter (a thin rubber tube) is gently inserted and advanced until it enters the bladder. The urine drains into a sterile container, and the catheter is removed.

With an infant, sterile urine samples are collected with bladder catheterization as described above.

An infant’s bladder is considered an abdominal rather than a pelvic organ because the bladder is located higher. On a very rare occasion, your health care provider may choose to collect a urine sample by inserting a needle above the pelvis directly into the bladder and draining the urine. However, this is necessary only to immediately screen for bacterial infection.

The urine is taken to a laboratory to determine what, if any, organisms are present in the urine. Other tests to determine the sensitivity of the organism to medications may be performed.

How to prepare for the test
Do not urinate for at least an hour before the test. If there is no urge to urinate, you may be instructed to drink a glass of water 15 to 20 minutes before the test may be requested. Otherwise, there is no preparation for the test.

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
There is some discomfort. As the catheter is inserted, there may be a sensation of pressure. If a urinary tract infection is present, there may be a painful sensation when the catheter is inserted due to inflammation of the urethra.

Why the test is performed
The test is performed to obtain a sterile urine specimen in a person who cannot voluntarily urinate, when an infection is suspected in the urinary tract, or when urinary retention is suspected. Tests for organisms that cause infection are performed after the urine is collected. This can also help monitor ongoing infections.

Normal Values
Normal values depend on the test being performed. Normal results are reported as “no growth” and indicate an absence of infection.

What abnormal results mean
A “positive” test indicates enough organisms detected to cause urinary tract infection.

What the risks are
There is a slight risk of perforation (hole) from the catheter and a risk of infection.

Special considerations
Rarely, a suprapubic aspirate may be performed if a sample cannot be obtained by other methods. In this method, a needle is inserted through the skin of the lower abdomen into the bladder to withdraw urine.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.