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Sputum Specimen Collection

Amount to Collect

The necessary amount of sputum for most tests is 5 ml (about 1 teaspoon). However, multiple tests are often ordered so more specimen may be needed. Some testing is best done on serial specimens, so you may be asked to collect for three days in a row.

When to Collect

It’s best to collect sputum specimens first thing in the morning, when you get up. Collect specimens only at that time unless instructed to do otherwise by hospital personnel or your physician.

Collection Container

Sputum collection containers are available from the physician's office or from the laboratory. These are sterile and should be opened only when putting in specimen. After the specimen is obtained, replace the lid tightly on the cup and return to the laboratory within two hours.

If you’re asked to collect sputum for multiple days (i.e. two or three), each day's specimen must be delivered to the laboratory within the two-hour time frame.

How to Collect

Gargle and rinse your mouth with water just after you get up and before you collect the specimen. (This helps to eliminate accumulated cells arid normal bacteria that may interfere with your test results.) Inhale repeatedly to the full capacity of your lungs and exhale the air with an explosive cough. This should produce mucus from the lungs that is to be expectorated into the container. The specimen MUST BE FROM THE LUNGS. "Spit" from the mouth is inadequate and will give incorrect results to your physician.

After the Specimen is Collected

Transport specimen within two hours to the lab and give directly to lab personnel. When more than one specimen has been ordered, collect specimens on consecutive mornings. Transport each specimen as collected to the laboratory.