Study showed variation in time to incubation among culture samples

PHILADELPHIA — Results presented here showed variability in the time to transport, process and incubate culture samples, with almost half of the sample cultures processed outside the time window recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Matthew M. Kleir

“We believe that hospitals can internally optimize the time to collect culture samples in order to maximize the culture yield,” Matthew M. Kheir, MD, said in his presentation at the Musculoskeletal Infection Society Annual Open Scientific Meeting. “I think this leads to a nice segue to other types of molecular techniques with next-generation sequencing that doesn’t utilize time as a crucial factor as much as culturing does.”

Kheir and colleagues tracked 103 cultures from 33 patients undergoing revision total joint arthroplasty. Researchers recorded specimen culture times at multiple stages, including time of intraoperative collection, time of OR pickup, transportation time, laboratory arrival, culture processing and plating time, and time to final result reporting.

Results showed 45.6% of cultures were processed and incubated within less than 2 hours, which Kheir noted as the optimal time to incubation for aerobic bacterial and fungal cultures recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, while 54.4% of cultures were incubated within 2 hours or more.

Researchers found a considerable variation in the range of time that samples remained in the OR, in transit and in the lab prior to incubation. According to results, idle time that samples spent in the OR after initial sampling attributed to 40% of the total time to incubation vs. transport to the laboratory, which represented 5.1% of total time. Of the time prior to incubation, results showed idle time in the laboratory represented the greatest share at 54.9%.

“Surprisingly, such a small percentage is spent actually transporting the cultures,” Kheir said. – by Casey Tingle



Blevins KM, et al. The journey of a culture: From operating room to final report. Presented at: Musculoskeletal Infection Society Annual Open Scientific Meeting; July 27-28, 2018; Philadelphia.


Disclosure: Kheir reports he receives stock or stock option for Kleu LLC.

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