Rectal Swab Culture

Norm of Rectal Swab Culture

Negative for pathogenic organisms.


Usage of Rectal Swab Culture

Screening for causes of bacterial diarrhea such as Campylobacter, Chlamydia, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Salmonella, and Shigella; and detection of aerobic and anaerobic intestinal flora.


Description of Rectal Swab Culture

The rectal swab culture is a screening test for pathogenic organisms of the rectum.


Professional Considerations of Rectal Swab Culture

Consent form NOT required.

  1. Obtain a sterile culture swab, a closed sterile container, and drapes.
  2. The client should disrobe below the waist.



  1. Drape the client in the left lateral position with the knees and hips flexed.
  2. Gently insert a sterile, cotton-tipped swab at least 2.5–3 cm into the rectum. Rotate the swab from side to side and leave it in place for a few seconds to allow absorption of rectal flora.
  3. If the swab is being obtained for N. gonorrhoeae culture, the swab must be discarded and the procedure repeated if fecal material contaminates the swab.
  4. Place the swab in a sterile container and cover it tightly. If a Culturette is used, insert the swab into the medium compartment of the culture tube and crush the distal end to release the ampule of medium.


Postprocedure Care

  1. Label the specimen with the site and collection time.


Client and Family Teaching

  1. The test is used to determine the potential bacterial cause of diarrhea.


Factors That Affect Results

  1. Swabs should be sent to the laboratory immediately.
  2. Refrigerate specimens not tested immediately.
  3. There is a high false-negative rate when testing for vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) in stool.


Other Data

  1. The rectal culture is not used to determine carrier state.