Ear drainage culture

Ear drainage culture is a laboratory test that is done to determine the ear infection presence and causative microorganism.

Causes of  Ear Infection

  • Injuring the ear with an object like ear cleaning swab, needle, toothpick: Sometimes you may want to clean your ear canal with cotton swab or you  insert some object to scratch your ear when it is itchy. Inserting any object may harm your ear skin lining and your ear will become unprotected against infections.
  • Moisture: After bath or swimming your ear canal may keep so much moisture inside, this changes acidity of your ear and your ear canal will be a suitable place for microorganisms, this is called swimmer’s ear.
  • Using headphones, hearing aid device, etc. or sharing your headphones with someone.
  • Allergic Reactions: Hair conditioner, shampoo, hair dyes and other hair products may irritate your ear or may cause an allergic reaction so your ear protection against microorganisms will be decreased.
  • Bottlefeeding of babies: Bottlefeeding of your baby especially when lying down increases the ear infection risk. Ear infection risk in bottlefedding is higher  than breastfeeding.
  • Sinus infections: Middle ear is connected your upper respiratory tract with eustachian tubes so infections in upper respiratory tract ( sinus infections) may spread to middle ear.
  • Infected adenoids: Inflammation of adenoids may block the eustachian tubes and increases ear infection risk, especially children have  larger eustachian tubes so ear infections are more common for them.
  • Tobacco usage: Tobbaco usage decreases your air quality and increases ear infection risk.
  • Other infections also may spread into the ear ; like tonsillitis, pharyngitis,scarlet fever, measles (rubeola), etc. may be reason of ear infection.

Symptoms of ear infection

  • Pain
  • Ear drainage (drainage of fluid )
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Vertigo
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased hearing

Treatment of  Ear Infection

If you have one or more of these symptoms an Otorhinolaryngologist (ear,nose,throat ENT doctor) usually prefers antibiotic treatment, but sometimes antibiotics may not affect. The reason may be the bacteria resistance to antibiotics. This means the necessary antibiotics for this infection is not the one you use.

Appropriate solution is to make the right laboratory tests to find the right treatment. An ear drainage culture should be done to identify the causative bacteria and then antibiotic sensitivity test can give the answer for right antibiotic treatment for the ear infection.

How the Ear Drainage culture is collected ?

Ear drainage culture sample should be  taken by a professional to prevent ear damage. Your ENT doctor takes the ear drainage culture sample from ear canal with a sterile cotton swab. Doctor places the ear culture sample into a sterile tube or a culture media to protect from contamination during transportation. Also ear fluid can be collected in a sterile injector or in a sterile culture cup. This is a painless procedure for you. Collection of ear drainage fluid with a cotton swab only takes few seconds.

ear culture

How the Ear Drainage Culture Test is Performed ?

  • Taken materials are first prepared for microscopic analysis, samples are dyed by special techniques to identify the bacteria with microscope
  • Technician inoculates ear drainage sample by spreading it in a culture media.
  • Inoculated culture media waits in a proper temperature for bacteria growth; this is incubation process.
  • Microbiologist evaluates culture media to determine bacteria growth.
  • If there are no bacteria growth in culture media it means negative; your culture test is clear.
  • If there are bacteria growth in culture media, they will be determined and additional laboratory test will be performed for finding the correct antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic sensitivity test is performed to find the effective antibiotics for the bacteria, your culture antibiogram report will be prepared finally to plan the treatment.
  • Your doctor will be able to use the right antibiotics according to the antibiogram test results
  • If a fungus infection is determined in your ear drainage sample, fungal culture should be done for diagnosis.

How long Ear Drainage Culture takes ?

If there is no bacteria growth  in culture media, test result may be ready in one day and result is negative; means clear.

Bacteria determination needs 1 or 2 more days for a result. Some additional laboratory tests must be done for antibiogram test  so test result time will be longer.


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