What is this test?
This test detects a type of virus called enterovirus from a culture of certain body fluids. It is used to evaluate infections caused by this virus. This test is also used when meningitis caused by enterovirus is suspected. Meningitis is the inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. A sample of cerebrospinal fluid, stool, throat cells and mucus, venous blood, clean urine, or other body fluid or tissue samples may be collected for this test.
Why do I need this test?
Laboratory tests may be done for many reasons. Tests are performed for routine health screenings or if a disease or toxicity is suspected. Lab tests may be used to determine if a medical condition is improving or worsening. Lab tests may also be used to measure the success or failure of a medication or treatment plan. Lab tests may be ordered for professional or legal reasons. You may need this test if you have:
- Acute poliomyelitis
- Enterovirus meningitis
When and how often should I have this test?
When and how often laboratory tests are done may depend on many factors. The timing of laboratory tests may rely on the results or completion of other tests, procedures, or treatments. Lab tests may be performed immediately in an emergency, or tests may be delayed as a condition is treated or monitored. A test may be suggested or become necessary when certain signs or symptoms appear.
Due to changes in the way your body naturally functions through the course of a day, lab tests may need to be performed at a certain time of day. If you have prepared for a test by changing your food or fluid intake, lab tests may be timed in accordance with those changes. Timing of tests may be based on increased and decreased levels of medications, drugs or other substances in the body.
The age or gender of the person being tested may affect when and how often a lab test is required. Chronic or progressive conditions may need ongoing monitoring through the use of lab tests. Conditions that worsen and improve may also need frequent monitoring. Certain tests may be repeated to obtain a series of results, or tests may need to be repeated to confirm or disprove results. Timing and frequency of lab tests may vary if they are performed for professional or legal reasons.
How should I get ready for the test?
A lumbar puncture is a procedure that requires your written consent. Review the consent form with the healthcare worker and ask any questions that you have before signing the consent form. You may receive certain medications and need imaging tests done prior to the procedure.
Tell the person doing the lumbar puncture if you have a medical condition or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding. Contact the healthcare worker if you have a history of chronic back pain, structural defects in your spine, or a past spinal surgery. Tell the healthcare worker if you have an infection on your back or if you have any psychiatric or neurological (nerve) conditions. You should also report if you have a history of allergic or other reactions to local anesthetics.
Before giving a stool sample, tell the healthcare worker if you have diarrhea or are using antibiotics, barium, bismuth, oil, iron, magnesium, or medication to stop diarrhea.
Ask the healthcare worker for information about how to prepare for this test.
Before having blood collected, tell the person drawing your blood if you are allergic to latex. Tell the healthcare worker if you have a medical condition or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding. Also tell the healthcare worker if you have felt nauseated, lightheaded, or have fainted while having blood drawn in the past.
To prepare for giving a urine sample, be sure to drink enough fluids before the test, unless you have been given other instructions. Try not to empty your bladder before the test.
Other body fluid or tissue samples:
A different sample other than the samples listed above may be used for this test. Ask your healthcare worker for information about how to prepare for this test. If you have questions or concerns about the preparation for this test, talk to the healthcare worker.
How is the test done?
A sample of cerebrospinal fluid, stool, throat cells and mucus, venous blood, clean urine, or other body fluid or tissue samples may be collected for this test.
Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord tissues. The procedure that collects a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is called a lumbar puncture. For this procedure, you may need to lie on your side facing away from the person performing the procedure. You may be asked to roll up into a ball with your knees brought close to your chest. This position allows your spine to spread apart slightly and helps direct needle placement. This procedure may also be done while you are in an upright sitting position, with your knees drawn up toward your chest.
An area in the lower back will be chosen for the needle insertion site. This is about at the level of the top of your hip bone. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic and the area will be draped with sterile cloth. Local anesthetic will be injected with a small needle to numb the area. Anesthetic cream may also be applied. After the anesthetic has taken effect, the lumbar puncture needle is inserted between the vertebrae and into the spinal column. Cerebrospinal fluid is drawn out for testing and the needle is removed. You may need to change positions during the procedure if the healthcare worker is having difficulty collecting a sample of fluid. This procedure may be done more than one time if collecting cerebrospinal fluid is difficult.
For a stool sample, you will be asked to have a bowel movement into a special container. Avoid adding urine, water, tissues, or toilet paper to the stool sample.
A throat culture is done to collect mucus and cells from the back of your throat. For a throat culture, you will need to open your mouth wide. The person doing the test will use a long, sterile cotton swab to swab the back of your throat, near your tonsils. The swab may be rubbed several times to obtain the sample. Do not close your mouth when the sample is being collected. After the sample has been collected, the swab will be taken out and tested.
When a blood sample from a vein is needed, a vein in your arm is usually selected. A tourniquet (large rubber strap) may be secured above the vein. The skin over the vein will be cleaned, and a needle will be inserted. You will be asked to hold very still while your blood is collected. Blood will be collected into one or more tubes, and the tourniquet will be removed. When enough blood has been collected, the healthcare worker will take the needle out.
Immediately before a test that requires a clean urine sample, males must clean, rinse, and dry the head of the penis. Females must clean, rinse, and dry the urethral area. As you begin urinating, allow a small amount of urine to go into the toilet, and then stop the urine stream. Position the container to collect your urine, and urinate into the container. Remove the container when it has a sufficient amount of urine in it, and finish urinating into the toilet.
The urine sample may also be collected from a urinary catheter. If a catheter is present, the healthcare worker will collect urine from the catheter for testing. If there is no catheter present, a catheter may need to be inserted temporarily to collect the sample. The area will be cleaned, and a sterile catheter will be inserted into your urethra. Urine will drain from the catheter into a container for the test. When sufficient urine has been collected, the catheter will be removed. A special bag may be used to collect a urine sample from an infant.
Other body fluid or tissue samples:
A different sample other than the samples listed above may be used for this test. Methods used to collect other body fluids or tissue samples may vary. Ask the healthcare worker to explain how this sample may be collected. If you have questions or concerns about this test, talk to the healthcare worker.
How will the test feel?
The amount of discomfort you feel will depend on many factors, including your sensitivity to pain. Communicate how you are feeling with the person doing the procedure. Inform the person doing the procedure if you feel that you cannot continue with the procedure.
Before a lumbar puncture, a local anesthetic is given to the procedure site to numb the area. You may feel mild discomfort or stinging when the numbing medicine is injected. You may feel a pressure, a popping sensation, and discomfort when the procedure needle is inserted. Tell the person doing the test if you feel pain or numbness down your leg during the procedure. You may have back discomfort for several days after the procedure.
This test usually causes no discomfort.
During a throat culture, you may feel mild discomfort at the back of your throat when the sample is collected. You may feel like gagging or coughing. You may have a mild sore throat briefly after the procedure.
During a blood draw, you may feel mild discomfort at the location where the blood sample is being collected.
There is usually no pain experienced when a clean-catch urine sample is given or when the sample is taken from an existing urinary catheter. If an intermittent (temporary) catheter is used to obtain the sample, you may feel some discomfort.
Other body fluid or tissue samples:
A different sample other than the samples listed above may be used for this test. This test may feel different depending on many factors, including the sample needed and how it is collected. Ask the healthcare worker what to expect during this test.
What should I do after the test?
After the lumbar puncture is complete, a bandage will be placed over the site and pressure held until the bleeding or drainage has stopped. You will need to lie flat for at least 1 to 2 hours after the lumbar puncture. Healthcare workers will monitor for drainage from the puncture site for a period of time after the test. You may be able carefully turn from your back to your side. You will be offered fluids to drink.
After giving a stool sample in a healthcare facility, close the container if it has a lid, and place the container where the healthcare worker instructed. Clean your hands with soap and water. If you have been asked to collect the stool sample while at home, follow the directions provided.
There are no special instructions to follow after this test.
After a blood sample is collected from your vein, a bandage, cotton ball, or gauze may be placed on the area where the needle was inserted. You may be asked to apply pressure to the area. Avoid strenuous exercise immediately after your blood draw. Contact your healthcare worker if you feel pain or see redness, swelling, or discharge from the puncture site.
After collecting a urine sample, close the container if it has a lid. Place the container where the healthcare worker asked you to put it. Clean your hands with soap and water.
Other body fluid or tissue samples:
A different sample other than the samples listed above may be used for this test. Instructions for what to do after a collection of other body fluid or tissue samples may vary. Ask the healthcare worker to instruct you on what to expect after this test is completed. If you have questions or concerns about what to expect after the test is completed, talk to the healthcare worker.
What are the risks?
Cerebrospinal fluid: Cerebrospinal fluid is collected by a procedure called a lumbar puncture. The most common risk of a lumbar puncture is spinal fluid leakage from the puncture site. This procedure may cause a mild to severe headache, which may last for several days. Although rare, other risks include infection, nerve injury, bleeding in the spinal canal, and damage to the discs in between your spine. If you have a medical condition, or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding, you are at a higher risk of bleeding from the puncture site. If you have a condition where you have increased pressure within your skull, such as a traumatic head injury or a large brain tumor, this procedure carries a risk of brain herniation (where the skull contents are pressed down on to the spinal cord causing brain damage). The person doing this test may need to perform it more than once. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have any concerns about the risks of this procedure.
Stool: Giving a stool sample is generally considered safe. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have questions or concerns about this test.
Throat cells/mucus: A throat culture is generally considered safe. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have questions or concerns about the risks of a throat culture.
Blood: During a blood draw, a hematoma (blood-filled bump under the skin) or slight bleeding from the puncture site may occur. After a blood draw, a bruise or infection may occur at the puncture site. The person doing this test may need to perform it more than once. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have any concerns about the risks of this test.
Clean urine: There are several different ways that may be used to collect a sample of clean urine. Urine may be collected by urinating in a cup using the clean-catch technique, or by collecting urine from an existing urinary catheter. Generally, there are no risks when collecting a clean urine sample using either of these methods. Another way to collect a clean urine sample is by inserting a temporary urinary catheter. Risks of using this method include bleeding, infection, catheter misplacement, and damage to the urethra or bladder. If you have a medical condition, or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding, you are at a higher risk of bleeding. The person doing this test may need to perform it more than once. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have any concerns about the risks of clean urine collection.
Other body fluid or tissue samples: A different sample other than the samples listed above may be used for this test. Ask your healthcare worker to explain the risks of this test to you. If you have questions or concerns about this test, talk to the healthcare worker.
What are normal results for this test?
Laboratory test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used for the test, and many other factors. If your results are different from the results suggested below, this may not mean that you have a disease. Contact your healthcare worker if you have any questions. The following is considered to be a normal result for this test:
- Adults and children: no growth
What follow up should I do after this test?
Ask your healthcare worker how you will be informed of the test results. You may be asked to call for results, schedule an appointment to discuss results, or notified of results by mail. Follow up care varies depending on many factors related to your test. Sometimes there is no follow up after you have been notified of test results. At other times follow up may be suggested or necessary. Some examples of follow up care include changes to medication or treatment plans, referral to a specialist, more or less frequent monitoring, and additional tests or procedures. Talk with your healthcare worker about any concerns or questions you have regarding follow up care or instructions.
You may experience headaches for hours to days, or even weeks after a lumbar puncture. The headaches are usually worse when sitting or standing upright and are relieved by lying down. Headaches are often associated with nausea, a stiff neck, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), photophobia (abnormal sensitivity to or intolerance of light), vertigo (dizziness), and blurred vision. Contact your healthcare worker if your symptoms worsen.
Other body fluid or tissue samples:
A different sample other than the samples listed above may be collected for this test. Ask the healthcare worker for follow up care instructions after this test.
Where can I get more information?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - http://www.cdc.gov/
 Sawyer MH: Enterovirus infections: diagnosis and treatment.. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1999; 18:1033-1040.
 Rotbart HA, McCracken GH Jr, Whitley RJ, et al: Clinical significance of enteroviruses in serious summer febrile illnesses of children.. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1999; 18:869-874.
 Lipson SM, Walderman R, Costello P, et al: Sensitivity of rhabdomyosarcoma and guinea pig embryo cell cultures to field isolates of difficult-to-cultivate group A coxsackieviruses. J Clin Microbiol 1988; 26(7):1298-1303.
 Wildin S & Chonmaitree T: The importance of the virology laboratory in the diagnosis and management of viral meningitis. Am J Dis Child 1987; 141(4):454-457.
 Higgins PG & Scott RJ: The isolation of enteroviruses from cases of acute conjunctivitis. J Clin Pathol 1973; 26(9):706-711.
Last Updated: 7/4/2018