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Endocervical culture

Definition

Endocervical culture is a laboratory test that helps identify infection in the female genital tract.

Alternative Names

Vaginal culture; Female genital tract culture; Culture - cervix

How the Test is Performed

During a vaginal examination, the health care provider uses a swab to take samples of mucus and cells from the endocervix. This is the area around the opening of the uterus. The samples are sent to a lab. There, they are placed in a special dish (culture). They are then watched to see if bacteria, virus, or fungus grow. Further tests may be done to identify the specific organism and determine the best treatment.

How to Prepare for the Test

In the 2 days before the procedure:

  • Do NOT use creams or other medicines in the vagina.
  • Do NOT douche. (You should never douche. Douching can cause infection of the vagina or uterus.)
  • Empty your bladder and bowel.
  • At your provider’s office, follow instructions for preparing for the vaginal exam.

How the Test will Feel

You will feel some pressure from the speculum. This is an instrument inserted into the vagina to hold the area open so that the provider can view the cervix and collect the samples. There may be a slight cramping when the swab touches the cervix.

Why the Test is Performed

The test may be done to determine the cause of vaginitis, pelvic pain, an unusual vaginal discharge, or other signs of infection.

Normal Results

Organisms that are usually present in the vagina are there in the expected amounts.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results indicate the presence of an infection in the genital tract or urinary tract in women, such as:

Risks

There may be slight bleeding or spotting after the test. This is normal.

References

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Genital, Neisseria gonorrhoeae - culture. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:575-576.

Gardella C, Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Genital tract infections: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, endometritis, and salpingitis. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 23.


Review Date: 7/17/2017
Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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