Sputum Culture

Alternate Name: SPUTUM CX

SAL Code:






Turn Around Time:

Preliminary reports first, final reports in 2-5 days.





Performing Laboratory:

Sherman Abrams Laboratory


Traditional culture setup; MICROSCAN Sensitivity and ID (where applicable); Gram stain (where applicable). If culture is positive, antibiotic susceptibilities (MICs) are only performed when appropriate. Feel free to call our microbiology department to discuss any special circumstances that may require additional workup.

Specimen Requirements:

Primary Tube:

Clean & Sterile Cup

Primary Substance:




Stable Ambient:

1 Days

Stable Fridge:

2 Days

Rejection Criteria:

Improper samples, samples not labeled correctly, samples that are suspect for contamination.

Clinical Info:

To isolate and identify potentially pathogenic organisms in sputum and the respiratory tract. Differentiating between normal flora, pathogenic isolates, and possible contamination or non-pathogenic colonization is a determination that should be made by a healthcare provider that is qualified to do so and while taking the patients' entire clinical picture into account.

Bronchoalveolar lavage and samples from a mucus trap from patients that are being ventilated are acceptable. Please indicate on requisition form site and method of collection.

If testing of a tracheotomy site is required, please order a wound culture (SAL# 1105) and indicate the site.

Additional molecular testing options exist for nasopharyngeal samples if warranted you may order a respiratory pathogens panels (SAL# 2017).

Additional Information:

A gram stain will be performed at the time of culture setup. Culture is performed for the isolation, identification, and, if necessary, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, of bacteria considered pathogenic in the lower respiratory tract.

Potential pathogens recovered by usual sputum culture methods can include Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus parainfluenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Proteus sp, Moraxella catarrhalis, and other organisms. Haemophilus sp and Neisseria sp may not be routinely isolated and identified. Thus, if their presence is clinically suspected, they should be specifically requested on the requisition form.

Agents such as Bordetella pertussis, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Legionella pneumophila, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis require special laboratory measures for isolation. Clinical suspicion of infection by these agents should be communicated to the laboratory before the sample is sent for testing.

Sample Collection:

The patient should be instructed to brush their teeth and rinse their mouth well with water before attempting to collect the specimen. If a patient wears dentures or has any other apparatus in their mouths that are removable, they should be removed prior to specimen collection. The patient should be instructed that only a specimen brought forth by deep, full cough should be expectorated into the container and sent to the laboratory.

Test Limitations:

Prior or current antibiotic therapy may cause negative cultures or delayed growth.

Specimen Handling Instructions:

Maintain at refrigerated temperature.

Test Information:


Component Name CPT Loinc
Gram Stain 87205 -
Preliminary Report 1 -