Urine Culture

Does this test have other names?

Urine culture and sensitivity, urine C&S

What is this test?

This test checks for bacteria in your urine that could be causing an infection in your urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.

The results of a urine culture help your doctor find out what's causing your infection and determine the best way to treat it. Almost 90% of urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by E. coli bacteria. Other types of bacteria, tuberculosis, and yeast infections can also cause a urinary tract infection.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you have symptoms of a UTI. These include:

  • Fever and chills

  • Burning pain when urinating

  • Pain in the back or lower belly

  • Frequent need to urinate

  • Cloudy or smelly urine

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order a urinalysis, which is a urine test to check for white blood cells. He or she may also order a blood test to look for signs of infection in your blood.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

Urine culture results are given in colony forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL). A negative result means you don't have an infection. A higher bacterial count may mean infection.

How is this test done?

This test requires a "clean-catch" urine sample. To collect this type of sample:

  • Carefully wash and dry your hands before removing the cap of the specimen container.

  • Clean the area around the opening of your urethra with an antiseptic pad.

  • Start urinating directly into the toilet, then urinate into the sterile container to collect a sample.

  • Fill the container as instructed.

  • Do not let any part of the container touch your genitals or skin.

  • Recap the container.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no known risks.

What might affect my test results?

Taking antibiotics right before the test may affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

Drink enough water before the test so that you can urinate. Tell your doctor if you have taken antibiotic medicine recently. Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use. 

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