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Urethral discharge culture

Definition

Urethral discharge culture is a laboratory test done on men and boys. This test is used to identify germs in the urethra that may be causing urethritis. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder.

Alternative Names

Culture of urethral discharge; Genital exudate culture; Culture - genital discharge or exudate; Urethritis - culture

How the Test is Performed

The health care provider uses sterile cotton or gauze to clean the opening of the urethra at the tip of the penis. To collect the sample, a cotton swab is then gently inserted about three-fourths inch (2 centimeters) into the urethra and turned. To get a good sample, the test should be done at least 2 hours after urinating.

The sample is sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture). It is then watched to see if bacteria or any other germs grow.

How to Prepare for the Test

DO NOT urinate for 1 hour before the test. Urinating washes away some of the germs needed for accurate test results.

How the Test will Feel

There is usually some discomfort from swabbing the urethra.

Why the Test is Performed

The provider often orders the test when there is a discharge from the urethra. This test can detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Normal Results

A negative culture, or no growth appearing in the culture, is normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results can be a sign of infection in the genital tract. These infections can include gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Risks

Fainting may occur when the swab is introduced into the urethra. This is due to stimulation of the vagus nerve. Other risks include infection or bleeding.

References

Augenbraun MH, McCormack WM. Urethritis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 109.

Beavis KG, Charnot-Katsikas A. Specimen collection and handling for diagnosis of infectious diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2017:chap 64.

Review Date:8/26/2017
Reviewed By:Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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Health Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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