Urethral discharge culture is a laboratory test done on men and boys. This test is used to identify germs in the urethra that may be causing urethritis. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder.
How the Test is Performed
The health care provider uses sterile cotton or gauze to clean the opening of the urethra at the tip of the penis. To collect the sample, a cotton swab is then gently inserted about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) into the urethra and turned. To get a good sample, the test should be done at least 2 hours after urinating.
The sample is sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture). It is then watched to see if bacteria or any other germs grow.
How to Prepare for the Test
Do NOT urinate for 1 hour before the test. Urinating washes away some of the germs needed for accurate test results.
How the Test will Feel
There is usually some discomfort from swabbing the urethra.
A negative culture, or no growth appearing in the culture, is normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results can be a sign of infection in the genital tract. These infections can include gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Fainting may occur when the swab is introduced into the urethra. This is due to stimulation of the vagus nerve. Other risks include infection or bleeding.
Culture of urethral discharge; Genital exudate culture; Culture - genital discharge or exudate
Augenbraun MH, McCormack WM. Urethritis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 109.
Craft AC, Woods GL. Specimen collection and handling for diagnosis of infectious diseases. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 63.
Review Date 9/26/2015
Updated by: Daniel N. Sacks MD, FACOG, obstetrics & gynecology in private practice, West Palm Beach, FL. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.