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Culture Endocervix

Definition

Endocervical culture is a laboratory test that helps identify infection in the female genital tract.

Alternative Names

Vaginal culture; Female genital tract culture; Culture - cervix; Endocervical culture

How the test is performed

During a vaginal examination, the health care provider takes a scraping of mucus and cells from the opening of the uterus, an area called the endocervix. The samples are placed on slides or a special dish, called a culture medium, or both, depending on the suspected cause of infection.

The laboratory team checks the slides or dish at different time periods to see if a bacteria, virus, or fungus has grown. Further tests may be done to identify the specific organism and determine the best treatment.

How to prepare for the test

To prepare for a vaginal examination:

  • Do not use any vaginal medication or douche before the exam (douching should always be avoided due to risk for uterine and tubal infections).
  • Empty your bladder (an empty bowel is also preferable).
  • Take off your clothes from the waist down.
  • Place your feet in the stirrups on the examination table.
  • Cover your lower body with the drape or sheet provided.

How the test will feel

You will feel some pressure from the speculum, an instrument inserted into the vagina to hold the area open so that the health care provider can look at the cervix and collect the samples. There may be a slight cramping sensation when the swab touches the cervix.

Why the test is performed

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

Normal Values

Organisms that are usually present in the vagina are there in the expected amounts.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results indicate the presence of an infection in the female genital tract.

Culture can detect:

  • C. trachomatis
  • Chlamydia
  • E. coli
  • Gonorrhea
  • Herpes simplex

Other conditions under which the test may be done:

  • Chlamydia
  • Chronic urethritis
  • Gonococcemia (disseminated)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What the risks are

There are no risks.

References

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 22.

Review Date: 11/12/2007

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