A sputum sample is obtained by coughing deeply and expelling the material that comes from the lungs into a sterile cup. The sample is taken to a labarotory and placed in a medium under conditions that allow the organisms to grow. A positive culture may identify disease-producing organisms that may help diagnose bronchitis, tuberculosis, a lung abscess, or pneumonia.
Review Date: 12/6/2011 Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.