Sputum stain for mycobacteria

Definition

Sputum stain for mycobacteria is a test to check for a type of bacteria that cause tuberculosis and other infections.

How the Test is Performed

This test requires a sample of sputum. 

The test sample is examined under a microscope. Another test, called a culture, is done to confirm the results. A culture test takes a few days to get results. This sputum test can give your doctor a quick answer.

How to Prepare for the Test

Drinking fluids the night before the test helps your lungs produce phlegm. It makes the test more accurate if it is done first thing in the morning.

If you are having a bronchoscopy, follow your health care provider's instructions on how to prepare for the procedure.

How the Test will Feel

There is no discomfort, unless a bronchoscopy needs to be performed.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is performed when the doctor suspects tuberculosis or other mycobacterium infection.

Normal Results

Results are normal when no mycobacterial organisms are found.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results show that the stain is positive for:

Risks

There are no risks with this test, unless bronchoscopy is performed.


Review Date: 12/1/2018
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 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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