Top of the page
A stool analysis is a series of tests done on a stool (feces) sample to help diagnose certain conditions affecting the digestive tract. These conditions can include infection (such as from parasites, viruses, or bacteria), poor nutrient absorption, or cancer.
For a stool analysis, a stool sample is collected in a clean container and then sent to the laboratory. Laboratory analysis includes microscopic examination, chemical tests, and microbiologic tests. The stool will be checked for colour, consistency, amount, shape, odour, and the presence of mucus. The stool may be examined for hidden (occult) blood, fat, meat fibres, bile, white blood cells, and sugars called reducing substances. The pH of the stool also may be measured. A stool culture is done to find out if bacteria may be causing an infection.
Stool analysis is done to:
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form( What is a PDF document? ).
Many medicines can change the results of this test. You will need to avoid certain medicines depending on which kind of stool analysis you have. You may need to stop taking medicines such as antacids, antidiarrheal medicines, antiparasite medicines, antibiotics, laxatives, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for 1 to 2 weeks before you have the test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the non-prescription and prescription medicines you take.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have:
If your stool is being tested for blood, you may need to avoid certain foods for 2 to 3 days before the test. This depends on what kind of stool test you use. And do not do the test during your menstrual period or if you have active bleeding from hemorrhoids. If you aren't sure about how to prepare, ask your doctor.
Do not use a stool sample for testing that has been in contact with toilet bowl cleaning products that turn the water blue.
Stool samples can be collected at home, in your doctor's office, at 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 and two sterile containers.
You may need to collect more than one sample over 1 to 3 days. Follow the same procedure for each day.
Collect the samples as follows:
Take the sealed container to your doctor's office or the laboratory as soon as possible. You may need to deliver your sample to the lab within a certain time. Tell your doctor if you think you may have trouble getting the sample to the lab on time.
If the stool is collected in your doctor's office or the hospital, you will pass the stool in a plastic container that is inserted under the toilet seat or in a bedpan. A health professional will package the sample for laboratory analysis.
You will need to collect stool for 3 days in a row if the sample is being tested for quantitative fats. You will begin collecting stool on the morning of the first day. The samples are placed in a large container and then refrigerated.
You may need to collect several stool samples over 7 to 10 days if you have digestive symptoms after travelling outside the country.
Samples from babies and young children may be collected from diapers (if the stool is not contaminated with urine) or from a small-diameter glass tube inserted into the baby's rectum while the baby is held on an adult's lap.
Sometimes a stool sample is collected using a rectal swab that contains a preservative. The swab is inserted into the rectum, rotated gently, and then withdrawn. It is placed in a clean, dry container and sent to the lab right away.
There is no pain while collecting a stool sample. If you are constipated, straining to pass stool may be painful.
If your health professional uses a rectal swab to collect the sample, you may feel some pressure or discomfort as the swab is inserted into your rectum.
Any stool sample may contain germs that can spread disease. It is important to carefully wash your hands and use careful handling techniques to avoid spreading infection.
A stool analysis is a series of tests done on a stool (feces) sample to help diagnose certain conditions affecting the digestive tract.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Stool analysis test results usually take at least 1 to 3 days.
The stool appears brown, soft, and well-formed in consistency.
The stool does not contain blood, mucus, pus, undigested meat fibres, harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
The stool is shaped like a tube.
The pH of the stool is 7.0–7.5. footnote 1
The stool contains less than 0.25 grams per decilitre (g/dL)[less than 13.9 millimoles per litre (mmol/L)] of sugars called reducing factors. footnote 1
The stool contains 2–7 grams of fat per 24 hours (g/24h). footnote 1
The stool is black, red, white, yellow, or green.
The stool is liquid or very hard.
There is too much stool.
The stool contains blood, mucus, pus, undigested meat fibres, harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
The stool contains low levels of enzymes, such as trypsin or elastase.
The pH of the stool is less than 7.0 or greater than 7.5.
The stool contains 0.25 g/dL (13.9 mmol/L) or more of sugars called reducing factors.
The stool contains more than 7 g/24h of fat (if your fat intake is about 100 g a day).
Many conditions can change the results of a stool analysis. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
CitationsFischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Other Works ConsultedChernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as ofMarch 28, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineJerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Current as of: March 28, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.