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Ordering Patterns, Collection, Transport, and Screening of Sputum Cultures in a Community Hospital: Evaluation of Methods to Improve Results

  • Julie T. Jacobson (a1) (a2), John P. Burke (a1) (a2) and Jay A. Jacobson (a1) (a2)


The clinical usefulness of sputum cultures depends on the quality of specimens submitted to the laboratory. In a community hospital, during two separate surveillance periods, we evaluated ordering practices and circumstances under which sputum specimens were obtained and techniques to improve the quality of the specimens. Physicians themselves rarely participated in obtaining specimens of sputum, and members of the nursing staff directly instructed patients or supervised specimen collection in only one third of cases. The mean elapsed time from collection at the bedside to processing in the laboratory was two hours, with a range from several minutes to 13 hours. One fifth of all the specimens in this study were obtained from patients with no discernible evidence of lower respiratory tract infection. Microscopic screening revealed that one half of the specimens were of poor or uncertain quality. After the first survey, inservice education of nursing personnel in the proper techniques of sputum collection, along with regular use of the screening procedure in the clinical laboratory, failed to effect any long-term change in ordering patterns or collection practices. However, the screening procedure did improve the quality of the sputum cultured, through rejection of unsatisfactory specimens [Infect Control 1981; 2(4):307-11.]


Corresponding author

Division of Infectious Diseases, LDS Hospital, 325 8th Ave., Salt Lake City, UT 84143


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Ordering Patterns, Collection, Transport, and Screening of Sputum Cultures in a Community Hospital: Evaluation of Methods to Improve Results

  • Julie T. Jacobson (a1) (a2), John P. Burke (a1) (a2) and Jay A. Jacobson (a1) (a2)


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