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Urine Culture: About This Test

Kidneys, ureters, bladder

What is it?

A urine culture is a test to find germs (such as bacteria) that can cause an infection. A sample of urine is added to a substance that promotes the growth of germs. If no germs grow, the culture is negative. If germs that can cause infection grow, the culture is positive. The type of germ may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests.

Why is this test done?

A urine culture may be done to find out if symptoms like pain or burning when urinating are from a urinary tract infection (UTI). The test can also find the cause of a UTI and help determine the best treatment for a UTI.

How do you prepare for the test?

You will need to collect a urine sample. You will need to drink enough fluids and avoid urinating so that you will be able to collect a urine sample.

The first urine of the day is best because bacterial levels will be higher. Avoid urinating just before having this test.

How is the test done?

You will be asked to collect a clean-catch midstream urine sample for testing.

  1. Wash your hands before collecting the urine.
  2. If the container has a lid, remove the lid of the container and set it down with the inner surface up.
  3. Clean the area around your penis or vagina.
  4. Begin urinating into the toilet or urinal.
  5. After the urine has flowed for several seconds, place the collection container in the stream and collect about 60 mL (a quarter cup) of this "midstream" urine without stopping the flow.
  6. Don't touch the rim of the container to your genital area.
  7. Finish urinating into the toilet or urinal.
  8. Carefully replace the lid on the container.
  9. Wash your hands.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away. The results of a urine culture are usually available in 1 to 3 days.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.
  • If your urine test result shows that you have bacteria in your urine, it doesn’t always mean you have a urine infection. Your test result may show bacteria if your urine sample was contaminated. Some people may also have high levels of bacteria in their urine without any symptoms. Your doctor will decide if you need to be treated with antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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