After the culture (sample) is collected from a person, it is sent to a lab. There, the samples are put in special containers to grow the microorganisms (germs) from the collected samples. Colonies of microorganisms are combined with different antibiotics to see how well each antibiotic stops each colony from growing. The test determines how effective each antibiotic is against a given organism.
How to prepare for the test
Follow your health care provider's instructions on how to prepare for the method used to obtain the culture.
How the test will feel
The way the test feels depends on the method used to obtain the culture.
Why the test is performed
The test shows which antibiotic drugs should be used to treat an infection.
Many organisms are resistant to certain antibiotics. So, sensitivity tests are important in helping find the right antibiotic for you. Your health care provider may start you on one antibiotic, but later change you to another because of the results of sensitivity analysis.
What abnormal results mean
If the organism shows resistance to the antibiotics used in the test, those antibiotics will not be effective treatment.
What the risks are
The risks depend upon the method used for obtaining the specific culture.
Smith MB, LaSala PR, Woods GL. In vitro testing of antimicrobial agents. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 58.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.