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Tests & Procedures : Lab Tests

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Wound Culture

Does this test have other names?

No.

What is this test?

This test looks for bacteria or other organisms in a wound. The test is used to find out if a wound is infected. It can also identify the type of organism that's causing the infection.

This test requires a small sample of cells or fluid from a wound. Then the sample is cultured and looked at under a microscope to look for bacteria or other organisms.

An infected wound may need special treatment, such as antibiotics. The antibiotics stop the infection and keep it from spreading to other areas of the body. Treating the infection also helps the wound to heal.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your doctor suspects that your wound is infected or if you were bitten by an animal, insect, or another person.

Symptoms of an infected wound include:

  • Redness

  • Swelling or a sudden lump under the skin

  • Pain

  • Pus or bad-smelling fluid draining from the wound

  • Skin around the wound that feels hot to the touch

  • Bumps near the wound that look like boils, pustules, spider bites, or a rash

In more advanced infections, you may also have exhaustion, confusion, fever, and chills.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order these tests:

  • Blood tests, including those to check liver function, blood proteins, and blood sugar, as well as a complete blood count, or CBC

  • Urine tests

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Normal results are negative, meaning that no organisms grew in the culture from your wound. A positive result means that bacteria or other organisms did grow and that your wound is infected. From your test results, your doctor can determine what's causing the infection and give you the best antibiotic to treat it.

How is this test done?

This test requires a swab of the fluid or cells from an open wound. Your health care provider will carefully clean the wound and flush out any dirt with water. Then he or she will collect a sample using a long cotton swab to gently wipe the wound. If the wound isn't oozing, your doctor may moisten the swab with a sterile saline solution.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no known risks.

What might affect my test results?

Other factors aren't likely to affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.