What is the role of sputum studies in the evaluation of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP)?

Updated: Oct 31, 2019
  • Author: Stephanie L Baer, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Send sputum samples from patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) for Gram stain and/or culture. Keep in mind that many patients, especially elderly persons, may not be able to produce an adequate suitable sputum sample.

Sputum Gram stain is reliable and diagnostic if performed on a well-collected specimen without many squamous epithelial cells (saliva contamination) and if a predominant organism is present. Gram stain shows few or no predominant organisms in patients with atypical CAP.

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