Gram stain of urethral discharge
A gram stain of urethral discharge is a test used to identify bacteria in fluid from the tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra).
Urethral discharge gram stain
How the test is performed
Fluid from the urethra is collected on a cotton swab. A sample from this swab is applied in a very thin layer to a microscope slide. A series of stains called a gram stain is applied to the specimen.
The stained smear is then examined under the microscope for the presence of bacteria. The color, size, and shape of the cells help identify the organism causing the infection.
How to prepare for the test
This test is often performed in the health care provider's office.
How the test will feel
You may feel pressure or burning when the cotton swab touches the urethra.
Why the test is performed
The test is performed when an abnormal urethral discharge is present. It may be performed if a sexually transmitted disease is suspected.
No presence of organisms is normal.
What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results may indicate gonorrhea or other infections.
What the risks are
There are no risks.
A culture of the specimen (urethral discharge culture) should be performed in addition to the gram stain. More sophisticated diagnostic tests (such as PCR tests) are sometimes also done.
Workowski KA, Berman SM. Diseases characterized by urethritis and cervicitis. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR. 2006 Aug 4;55(RR-11):35-49.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update to CDC's sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2006: fluoroquinolones no longer recommended for treatment of gonococcal infections. MMWR.2007 Apr 13;56(14):332-6.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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