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Blood Cultures



Culture test to look for the presence of Bacteria (and fungi) in blood.


Blood taken either from a peripheral vein or from a line.

Specimen Container

BacTec Blood culture bottles (see picture.)

  • Adult set (2 bottles): Aerobic (blue top) & Anaerobic (Purple top) – 8- 10mls in each bottle
  • Paediatric set (1 bottle): Paediatric bottle (silver top) – 1-3mls

Sample Collection

• Clean procedure tray
• Pair of blood culture bottles, (check expiry date)
• Sharps bin
• Chlorhexidine in 70% isopropyl alcohol swabs
• butterfly with monovette adaptor
• Clean, non-sterile gloves
• Disposable or non latex tourniquet
• Alcohol hand rub

Step 1
Skin preparation
• Cleanse your hands.
• Apply a tourniquet (if applicable) and palpate to identify vein.
• Clean skin over vein with a chlorhexidine/alcohol swab and allow to dry for 30 seconds.
• If taking from central venous catheter, clean access port with chlorhexidine/alcohol swab.

Step 2
Preparation of bottles
• Remove the flip off plastic cap and clean the rubber septum of the culture bottles with chlorhexidine/alcohol swab and allow to dry for 30 seconds.

Step 3
Sample collection – A: Butterfly & adapter method (preferred method)
• Cleanse hands again.
• Apply clean examination gloves (sterile gloves are not necessary).
• Without palpating the vein again, insert butterfly into vein.
• Attach adapter

For an adult set:
• Attach aerobic (blue topped) bottle first. Collect 8-10mls.
• Attach anaerobic bottle (purple topped). Collect 8- 10mls.

For a Paediatric set:
• Attach Paediatric (Silver topped) bottle. Collect 1-3mls.

NB. If blood is needed for other tests, always fill the blood culture tubes first.

• Release tourniquet, remove butterfly and discard in sharps bin.
• Cover the puncture site with an appropriate dressing.
• Wash hands after removing gloves.

Step 4
Requesting, Labelling & Incubation of blood cultures
• Place order for Blood culture MC&S as appropriate using EPIC. Ensure time, date & appropriate clinical information is entered in the request.
NB. Ensure that barcode labels of Blood culture bottle are not covered or removed.

During routine hours (09.00 -18:00 Mon – Fri, 08.00-16:30 Saturday, 08:00-12:00 Sunday) the bottles should be transported to the Microbiology laboratory (Old Path Lab) as soon as possible.

Out of hours:
(18:00-22:00) Contact the Porters and request that they transport the specimen to the Old Pathology Lab, so that incubation can begin without delay.
(22:00-08:00) Send them via the pneumatic tube system to station 2912

NB. Blood cultures should never be placed in the refrigerator.

Special Instructions

Please DO NOT overfill bottles.


Processed in-house at RD&E

Turnaround Time

Up to 5 days for a negative result

  • Preliminary negative results available at 48hrs for adult and 36hrs for paediatric blood culture sets.

Useful Links

For patients:

Blood Cultures – Lab Tests Online UK

Specimen Labelling Procedure
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