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Health Library : Lab Tests & Results Print [PDF]
Browse by the First Letter(s) of the Lab Test
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Chlamydia trachomatis culture

What is this test?

This test detects and isolates a type of bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis from a culture of cells collected from the surface of certain areas of the body. This test is used when infection with this bacteria is suspected[1][2][3][4][5]. A sample of endocervical cells, urethral cells or discharge, throat cells or mucus, nasopharyngeal cells, or other body fluid or tissue samples may be collected for this test[6][7][8].

What are related tests?

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. The following are possible reasons why this test may be done:

  • Chlamydia trachomatis infection

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?

Endocervical cells:

Written consent will be required for endocervical sampling. Review the consent form with the healthcare worker and ask any questions that you have before signing the consent form.

Tell the healthcare worker if you have a medical condition or are using a medication or supplement that causes excessive bleeding. If possible, schedule the procedure one week after your menstrual period. Do not douche or have sexual intercourse for 24 hours before the procedure.

You may be asked to urinate prior to your endocervical sampling. This will make it easier for the healthcare worker to see your cervical canal during the procedure and may make the procedure more comfortable for you.

Urethral cells/discharge:

Before collection of urethral cells and/or urethral discharge for this test, you should not urinate during the hour prior to the test. This is because urine may minimize or clear your urethra (the tube that drains urine) of any organisms (germs), thus affecting the results of this test.

Throat cells/mucus:

There is no preparation needed for this test.

Nasopharyngeal cells:

There is no preparation needed for this 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 endocervical cells, urethral cells or discharge, throat cells or mucus, nasopharyngeal cells, or other body fluid or tissue samples may be collected for this test.

Endocervical cells:

For an endocervical sampling, you will be asked to lie on your back with your legs spread and feet placed in stirrups. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. This tool is used to gently spread apart your vagina. A small brush is inserted into the endocervical canal and rotated. This is done to collect cells. Once a sufficient sample is collected, the brush is removed. The sample off the brush is then sent for testing.

Urethral cells/discharge:

A urethral culture procedure is used to collect cells samples and/or urethral discharge. This test is usually done on males only. For this procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back. The tip of the penis will be cleaned. A special thin swab will be inserted into the urethra. The swab will gently be twisted side to side and then remain still for a few seconds before it is removed. This is to allow the swab to absorb enough fluid to be cultured. It may be possible to get a sample by “milking” the urethra for discharge. Ask the healthcare worker if this is an appropriate option.

Throat cells/mucus:

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.

Nasopharyngeal cells:

A nasopharyngeal swab, aspirate, or wash is done to collect cell samples from the upper part of your nose and throat. For a nasopharyngeal swab, you will be asked to tilt your head back. The person doing the test will use a special kind of swab and insert it into one of your nostrils. The swab will be rotated gently and then remain still for a few seconds before it is removed. This is to allow the swab to collect a large enough sample to be tested. This process will be repeated in the second nostril. For an aspirate or wash, the healthcare worker will use a syringe to push a small amount of sterile saline into your nose, then either apply gentle suction (for the aspirate) or use gravity to collect the resulting fluid (saline and mucous) into a cup. The sample is then sent to the lab for testing.

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.

Endocervical cells:

You may feel mild discomfort, cramping, or pain during an endocervical sampling.

Urethral cells/discharge:

A urethral culture generally takes less than a minute. However, you may feel discomfort when the swab moves in the urethra.

Throat cells/mucus:

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.

Nasopharyngeal cells:

During a nasopharyngeal swab, aspirate, or wash, you may feel slight discomfort when the swab or fluid enters into the nostrils. You may gag or cough during the procedure.

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?

Endocervical cells:

After endocervical sampling, you may experience some light spotting (mild, occasional bleeding from the vagina). Generally, there are no activity restrictions after this procedure.

Urethral cells/discharge:

After a sample has been collected, avoid all sexual activities until you receive your results and speak to your healthcare worker.

Throat cells/mucus:

There are no special instructions to follow after this test.

Nasopharyngeal cells:

There are no special instructions to follow after this test.

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?

Endocervical cells: An endocervical cell sample is collected using a method similar to a Pap smear. This procedure may cause light bleeding from the vagina. 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 during or after this procedure. The person doing this procedure may need to perform it more than once. Talk to your healthcare worker if you have any concerns about the risks of this procedure.

Urethral cells/discharge: Ask the healthcare worker to explain the risks of this procedure to you before it is performed.

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.

Nasopharyngeal cells: Ask the healthcare worker to explain the risks of this procedure to you before it is performed.

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:

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.

Urethral cells/discharge:

If you have a positive urethral culture, you may need to have the test repeated to monitor the treatment of your diagnosed condition. Additionally, all of your sexual partners may need to be treated. Follow the instructions given to you by your healthcare worker regarding sexual activities.

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?

Related Companies

References

  1. Nelson HD & Helfand M: Screening for chlamydial infection. Am J Prev Med 2001; 20(3 Suppl):95-107.
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services: Recommendations for the prevention and management of chlamydia trachomatis infections, 1993. CDC 1993; 42:10-13.
  3. Taylor-Robinson D & Thomas BJ: Laboratory techniques for the diagnosis of chlamydial infections.. Genitourin Med 1991; 67:256-266.
  4. Kellogg JA: Clinical and laboratory considerations of culture vs antigen assays for detection of Chlamydia trachomatis from genital specimens. Arch Pathol Lab Med 1989; 113(5):453-460.
  5. Barnes RC: Laboratory diagnosis of human chlamydial infections. Clin Micriobiol Rev 1989; 2:119-136.
  6. Morton CE, Mallinson H, Clearkin LG, et al: Per-nasal swabbing as an aid to the diagnosis of chlamydial and adenovirus conjunctivitis.. Eye 1990; 4:510-513.
  7. Bell TA, Stamm WE, Kuo CC, et al: Delayed appearance of Chlamydia trachomatis infections acquired at birth.. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1987; 6:928-931.
  8. Bialasiewicz AA & Jahn GJ: Evaluation of diagnostic tools for adult chlamydial keratoconjunctivitis.. Ophthalmology 1987; 94:532-537.

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