Lymph node culture is a laboratory test done on a sample from a lymph node to identify germs that cause infection.
A sample is needed from a lymph node. The sample may be taken using a needle to draw fluid (aspiration) from the lymph node or during a lymph node biopsy.
The sample is sent to a laboratory. There, it is placed in a special dish and watched to see if bacteria, fungi, or viruses grow. This process is called a culture. Sometimes, special stains are also used to identify specific cells or microorganisms before culture results are available.
If needle aspiration does not provide a good enough sample, the entire lymph node may be removed and sent for culture and other testing.
Your health care provider will instruct you on how to prepare for the lymph node sampling.
When local anesthetic is injected, you will feel a prick and a mild stinging sensation. The site will likely be sore for a few days after the test.
Your provider may order this test if you have swollen glands and infection is suspected.
A normal result means there was no growth of microorganisms on the lab dish.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
Abnormal results are a sign of a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection.
Risks may include:
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.