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Stool Analyses: About These Tests

What is it?

A stool analysis is a series of tests done on a sample of stool (feces) to find problems with the digestive tract. These health problems can include infection, poor nutrient absorption, or cancer.

Why is this test done?

Stool analysis is done to identify diseases of the digestive tract. It is also done to find the cause of symptoms affecting the digestive tract, such as diarrhea, gas, nausea, vomiting, and belly pain with fever.

How can you prepare for the test?

You will need to avoid certain medicines, such as antacids and antidiarrheal medicines, for 1 to 2 weeks before the test. You may also need to avoid certain foods for a few days before the test. Talk with your doctor about which medicines and foods to avoid.

What happens before the test?

Stool samples can be collected at home, in your doctor's office, in a medical clinic, or at the hospital. If you collect the samples at home, you will be given stool collection kits to use each day. Each kit contains applicator sticks, a collection container, and two sterile containers.

What happens during the test?

You may need to collect more than one sample over 1 to 3 days. Follow the same procedure each day.

  • Urinate before collecting stool so you don't get any urine in the stool sample.
  • Put on gloves.
  • Pass stool into the collection container.
  • Use the applicator stick to take a sample of the stool and place it in the sterile container.
  • Place the lid on the container, and label it with your name, your doctor's name, and the date the stool was collected.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take a few minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • If you are not already at home, you will probably be able to go home right away. Stool analysis results usually take at least 1 to 3 days.
  • 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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