Esophageal culture is a laboratory test that checks for infection-causing germs in a sample of tissue from the esophagus.
Culture - esophageal
How the test is performed
A sample of tissue from your esophagus is needed. For information on how this is done, see esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
The sample is sent to a lab, where it is placed in a special dish (culture media) and checked daily to see if any bacteria, fungus, or virus grows.
Other tests may be done to determine what medication can best treat the organism.
How to prepare for the test
There is no preparation needed for a culture. For information on how to prepare for the removal of a piece of esophageal tissue, see EGD
How the test will feel
The laboratory test is painless and does not involve the patient. For information on how the test to obtain the sample feels, see the article on EGD
Why the test is performed
Your doctor may order this test if you have signs or symptoms of an esophageal infection or disease, or if an ongoing infection does not respond to treatment.
A normal result means that no microorganisms were seen on the laboratory dish.
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results are a sign of an infection of the esophagus. The infection may be due to bacteria, virus, or fungus.
See also: Esophageal herpes
What the risks are
There are no risks related to the culture. For information on risks related to the EGD procedure, see EGD
Other procedures or tests may be done along with an esophageal culture.
Falk GW, Katzka DA. Diseases of the esophagus. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 140.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.