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 laboratory 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 12/1/2018
Updated 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, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.