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Collecting a stool specimen is a common diagnostic procedure used to analyze fecal matter for various reasons, such as detecting infections, parasites, or gastrointestinal disorders.

Here’s a general guide on collecting a stool specimen:

  1. Gathering Materials:
    • Use a clean, dry container with a tight-fitting lid. Healthcare providers often provide specific containers for stool collection.
    • Consider using disposable gloves to maintain hygiene during the collection process.
  2. Timing:
    • Collect the stool sample as soon as possible after it is produced to ensure the accuracy of the results.
  3. Avoid Contamination:
    • Make sure the stool does not come into contact with urine or toilet bowl water.
    • Some healthcare providers may recommend using a plastic wrap or disposable plastic container placed in the toilet bowl to catch the stool.
  4. Collection:
    • Using a clean plastic or wooden spatula, tongue depressor, or a similar device, collect a small amount of stool (about the size of a walnut) from different areas of the stool sample.
    • Place the sample into the container, ensuring that it is well-sealed to prevent leakage and contamination.
  5. Labeling:
    • Label the container with your name, date of collection, and any other information required by your healthcare provider.
  6. Transport to the Laboratory:
    • Deliver the stool specimen to the laboratory as soon as possible after collection. Some tests may require the sample to be delivered within a specific timeframe.
  7. Storage:
    • If immediate delivery is not possible, store the specimen in the refrigerator until you can transport it to the laboratory.
  8. Special Instructions:
    • Some tests may require additional instructions, such as collecting multiple samples over consecutive days or following a specific diet before collection. Follow any guidelines provided by your healthcare provider.
  9. Preservation Solutions:
    • In some cases, the healthcare provider may provide a preservative solution to mix with the stool sample. Follow the instructions for using any provided solutions.
  10. Documentation:
    • Document any relevant symptoms or information that may aid in the interpretation of the test results.


Collection of stool specimen for specific or routine tests (stool culture to detect abnormal characteristics)


  • To identify specific pathogens
  • To determine presence of blood, ova and parasites
  • To determine presence of fat
  • To do gross examination of stool characteristics such as color, consistency and color

Normal Characteristics of Feces

  • Color: light to dark brown
  • Odor: pungent smell
  • Frequency: 1-2 times per day
  • Quantity: 4-5 ounces per day
  • Composition: 30% water, shed epithelium from the intestine, a considerable quantity of bacteria and a small quantity of nitrogenous matter
  • Stool of infants: at birth, the stool of infants is dark green and it is called “meconium”

Abnormal Characteristics of Feces


  • Tarry black stools – bleeding in the upper gastro-intestinal tract
  • Black color stool – melena, administration of iron or charcoal
  • Clay colored stool – obstruction to the flow of bile
  • White colored stool – presence of barium salts after barium tests


Melana and dysentery – foul smell


  • Diarrhea – increased frequency
  • Constipation – decreased in frequency and low residue diet

Consistency and Form

  • Watery stools – diarrhea
  • Rice water stools – cholera
  • Pea soup stools – typical of typhoid fever


  • Fresh blood in large amounts – bleeding piles
  • Blood and mucus stool – amoebic or bacillary dysentery
  • Worm or segments or worms in stool – parasitic cysts, ova or larvae

General Instructions

  • Fecal specimens are collected for chemical bacteriological or parasitological analysis
  • Fecal specimens should be collected in the early stages of disease preferably before antibiotic treatment is given
  • Stool specimens should be collected in a sterile container (making use of the scoop provided in the container) with a tight-fitting leak proof lid
  • After collection, the lid should be immediately replaced tightly
  • After proper labeling, the collected stool should be handed over to the laboratory without delay

Preliminary Assessment


  • The doctors order for any specific instructions
  • General condition and diagnosis of the patient
  • Assess the self-care ability
  • Mental status to follow instructions
  • Articles available in the unit

Preparation of the Patient and Environment

  • Explain the procedure to the patient
  • Provide privacy
  • Arrange the articles at bedside
  • Obtain laboratory request and container


  • Appropriate specimen container
  • Spatula (clean for routine, sterile for culture)
  • Bedpan or portable commode
  • Gloves
  • Waste paper


  • Instruct patient to defecate into clean dry bedpan or commode
  • Instruct not to contaminate specimen with urine
  • Nurse to wear gloves while collecting specimen
  • Collect stool specimen with clean spatula for routine stool test and with sterile spatula into culture container
  • Cover the container tightly

After Care

  • Remove the gloves
  • Wrap spatula in waste paper and discard appropriately
  • Label specimen container with name, hospital number, and date
  • Send to laboratory immediately (fresh specimen provides more accurate results)
  • Replace equipment and after cleaning
  • Record the procedure in nurse’s record sheet
 STOOL-ROUTINE TEST AND CULTURE -  Purpose,  Normal And Abnormal Characteristics of Feces,  Instructions,  Preliminary Assessment,  Preparation of the Patient and Environment,  Equipment,  Procedure,  After Care
STOOL-ROUTINE TEST AND CULTURE Purpose, Normal And Abnormal Characteristics of Feces, Instructions, Preliminary Assessment, Preparation of the Patient and Environment, Equipment, Procedure, After Care


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