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Endocervical culture

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

How the Test is Performed

During a vaginal examination, the health care provider uses a swab to take samples of mucus and cells from the endocervix. This is the area around the opening of the uterus. The samples are sent to a lab. There, they are placed in a special dish (culture). They are then watched to see if bacteria, virus, or fungus grow. Further tests may be done to identify the specific organism and determine the best treatment.

How to Prepare for the Test

In the 2 days before the procedure:

  • Do NOT use creams or other medicines in the vagina.
  • Do NOT douche. (You should never douche. Douching can cause infection of the vagina or uterus.)
  • Empty your bladder and bowel.
  • At your provider’s office, follow instructions for preparing for the vaginal exam.

How the Test will Feel

You will feel some pressure from the speculum. This is an instrument inserted into the vagina to hold the area open so that the provider can view the cervix and collect the samples. There may be a slight cramping when the swab touches the cervix.

Why the Test is Performed

The test may be done to determine the cause of vaginitis, pelvic pain, an unusual vaginal discharge, or other signs of infection.

Normal Results

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 genital tract or urinary tract in women, such as:

Risks

There may be slight bleeding or spotting after the test. This is normal.

References

Craft AC, Woods GL. Specimen collection and handling for diagnosis of infectious diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 63.

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower and upper genital tracts: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 23.

Review Date:9/26/2015
Reviewed By:Daniel N. Sacks MD, FACOG, obstetrics & gynecology in private practice, West Palm Beach, FL. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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