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How should I collect the sputum sample for a test?

Q: I am suffering from pulmonary TB. My doctor suggested a sputum test. I have a container for collecting sputum sample. Two days ago when I tired to collect a sample, only saliva came out in the container, but there was no sputum. Today while coughing I felt sputum in my mouth and I spitted in the same container. Now my concern is, will the sputum sample be useful even when it has got mixed with the saliva collected 2 days back?

A:No. The sputum sample collected as you have described is unacceptable for microbiological evaluation for TB. You shall have to collect a fresh container and submit a repeat specimen. The ideal time to collect the specimen is in the morning after you wake up. Taking a couple of glasses of warm water helps in hydration and helps to bring out the sample easily. Steam inhalation may also help. In case these measures fail, then induced sputum can be collected by giving hypertonic saline nebulisation. If these measures fail, and the X-ray is suggestive of TB, a diagnostic bronchoscopy could be done to collect the sample from the airways.

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