Gram stain

Definition

A Gram stain is a test used to identify bacteria. It is one of the most common ways to quickly diagnose bacterial infection in the body.

How the Test is Performed

How the test is performed depends on what tissue or fluid from your body is being tested. The test may be quite simple, or you may need to prepare ahead of time.

The sample is sent to a laboratory.

How to Prepare for the Test

Your provider will tell you what to do to prepare for the test. For some types of tests, you will not need to do anything.

How the Test will Feel

How the test will feel depends on the method used to take a sample. You may not feel anything, or you may feel pressure and mild pain, such as during a biopsy. You may be given some form of pain medicine so you have little or no pain.

Why the Test is Performed

You may have this test to diagnose an infection caused by bacteria. It can also identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.

This test can help find the cause of various health problems, including:

Normal Results

A normal result means that no bacteria or only "friendly" bacteria were found. Some types of bacteria normally live in certain areas of the body, such as the intestines. Bacteria normally don't live in other areas, such as the brain or spinal fluid.

Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may indicate an infection. You will need further tests, such as a culture, to find out more about the infection.

Risks

Your risks depend on the method used to remove tissue or fluid from your body. You may have no risk at all. Other risks are rare, but may include:


Review Date: 4/15/2018
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. 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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