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Urine Culture: Teen Version

What is a urine culture?

A urine culture is a test done on a sample of urine to see if infection-causing organisms are in the urine. If the test is positive, your healthcare provider can use the information to prescribe medicine to treat the infection.

Why is this test done?

A urine culture is done to diagnose or confirm an infection in the urinary tract (the kidneys, bladder, or urethra, which is the tube that drains urine out of the body).

How do I prepare for this test?

You may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that you are taking. Do not stop any of your regular medicines without first talking to your provider about it.

How is the test done?

There are 2 methods for collecting a urine specimen: the clean-catch method and the catheterization method.

  • For the clean-catch method, you clean your genital area, start urinating, and then catch some of the urine in a cup.
  • The catheterization method may be used if you have trouble with the clean-catch method or if a sample is needed from an infant or young child. Your healthcare provider cleans the genital area and then passes a thin flexible tube into the urethra and up to the bladder to collect a sample of urine.

The sample of urine is sent to a lab to see if any bacteria grow from it.

How will I get the test result?

Ask your health care provider when and how you will get the result of your test. It usually takes 2 to 4 days for the urine culture result to be complete.

What does the test result mean?

A negative, or normal, test result means no bacteria grew in the culture and you probably do not have an infection.

Usually a positive test result means you have a urinary tract infection. However, the result could be positive when you don't have an infection if too many bacteria from your skin got into the sample.

What if my test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your medical history and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your result and ask questions.

If your test result is not normal, ask your healthcare provider:

  • if you need additional tests
  • what you need to do to have a normal value
  • when you need to be tested again.

Written by Tom Richards, MD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-07
Last reviewed: 2008-07-16

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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