November 2007, Volume 37 Number 11 , p 18 - 18 [FREE]


  • Jill Rushing RN, MSN


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YOU MAY OBTAIN A CULTURE SPECIMEN from an infected wound to identify the causative organism and help determine the most effective therapy. Use appropriate technique, usually the Z-stroke swab culturing technique shown here.



* Review the health care provider's order for obtaining the wound culture.


* Gather supplies to clean the wound, obtain the specimen, and redress the wound.


* Provide privacy. Confirm the patient's identity and explain the procedure.


* Position and drape the patient.


* Perform hand hygiene and put on clean gloves. Remove the dressing, dispose of the gloves and dressing, and perform hand hygiene.


* Assess the wound and surrounding tissue.


* Arrange supplies on a sterile field. Put on clean gloves and thoroughly rinse the wound with sterile saline solution. Remove the gloves, perform hand hygiene, and put on clean gloves.



[black right pointing small triangle]To collect the specimen, swab the wound by gently rotating a sterile calcium alginate or rayon swab between your fingers. Swab the wound from margin to margin in a 10-point zigzag fashion. Use enough pressure to express fluid from within the wound tissue.


* Place the swab in the culture medium, label it according to your facility's policies and procedures, and send it to the lab as soon as possible.


* Redress the wound as ordered. Take off gloves and perform hand hygiene.


* Document the procedure, your assessment findings, and the patient's response.




* Don't take a specimen from exudate or eschar.


* Don't use a cotton-tipped swab.


* Don't let the sterile swab touch your fingers or other objects.




Baranoski S, Ayello EA. Wound Care Essentials: Practice Principles, 2nd edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.


Gardner SE, et al. Diagnostic validity of semiquantitative swab cultures. Wounds. 19(2):31-38, February 2007.


Hess CT. Clinical Guide: Wound Care, 5th edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005.