Instructions for Collecting Sputum Specimens for Acid Fast Bacilli (AFB)
Used to test for tuberculosis infection in the lungs.
Your provider has ordered a test that requires a sputum specimen collection. It is very important that an adequate sputum specimen is collected for this procedure.
- Sputum is material from deep down in the chest which is obtained by deep coughing.
- Saliva is the watery fluid in the mouth and is not desirable for culture.
- Post-nasal drainage is the thick material which drains down from the nose and sinuses at the back of the throat, especially during the night. This material should be cleared from the throat and discarded before collecting the sputum specimen.
1. Special sterile containers are needed for the specimen collection. The containers may be provided by the clinic. If not provided to you by the clinic, please get containers from the laboratory.
2. Collect sputum early in the morning immediately after waking up and before eating or drinking. Rinse mouth with water and remove dentures, if any.
3. Breathe in and out deeply 2 to 4 times.
4. Give a series of low, deep coughs to raise sputum from the lungs and deposit material into the sterile container. It is helpful to have about 2 teaspoons of sputum.
5. Secure the lid to prevent leakage. Label container with date and time of collection.
6. If your provider wants you to collect more than one specimen, collect a sputum specimen each morning for as many times as you have containers. If your provider has requested a total of three specimens, the specimens for the first and second days may be refrigerated until the third specimen is collected, so that you can take all three specimens to the laboratory at the same time.
7. Return the specimen container(s) and any slips the provider gave you to the laboratory receptionist on the same morning the last specimen was collected.
8. Be sure your container is labeled with your name, Kaiser Permanente medical record number, and the sample date and time before you leave the laboratory.