Blood Culture: About This Test

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What is it?

A blood culture is a test to see what kind of bacteria or fungi are infecting your blood.

Usually, a blood infection occurs with other serious infections. These include infections in your lungs, kidneys, bowels, gallbladder, or heart valves.

You may also get a blood infection if your immune system is weak.

Why is this test done?

A blood culture is done to:

  • Find a bacterial infection that has spread into the blood. These include meningitis and osteomyelitis. They also include pneumonia, a kidney infection, or sepsis.
  • Find a fungal infection in the blood. One common type is a yeast infection.
  • Check for endocarditis. This is a bacterial infection on your heart valves.
  • Find the best antibiotics to kill the bacteria or fungi. This is called sensitivity testing.
  • Find the cause of an unexplained fever, shock, or other very serious illness.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • You do not need to do anything at home to prepare for the test.
  • Tell your health professional if you took antibiotics recently.

What happens during the test?

A health professional takes a sample of your blood.

Blood may be taken from two or three places on your body. Or it may be taken at two different times a few hours apart.

What happens after the test?

  • If bacteria are found in the culture, the lab will often test your blood again to find the best antibiotic to kill the bacteria. This is called sensitivity testing.
  • You will probably be able to go home right away.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

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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Current as of: October 14, 2016