- Health Library
- Research a Disease or Condition
- Lookup a Symptom
- Learn About a Test
- Prepare for a Surgery or Procedure
- What to do After Being Discharged
- Self-Care Instructions
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Nutrition, Vitamins & Special Diets
A bile culture is a laboratory test to detect disease-causing microorganisms in the biliary system, which includes the gallbladder, bile ducts inside the liver, and bile ducts outside the liver.
See also: Bile
Culture - bile
How the Test is Performed
A sample of bile (a digestive fluid) is needed. This can be done using different methods, including gallbladder surgery or a scope procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
For information on those procedures, see:
The bile fluid sample is sent to a laboratory, where it is stored in a special dish (called a culture medium). The laboratory team watches to see if any bacteria, virus, or fungus grows on the sample.
How to Prepare for the Test
Preparation depends on the specific method used to obtain the bile sample.
- Gallbladder surgery
How the Test Will Feel
A culture does not involve the patient, so there is no pain.
- Gallbladder surgery
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to detect infection within the biliary system. The biliary system creates, moves, stores, and releases bile to help in digestion.
The test result is normal if no bacteria, virus, or fungus grew in the laboratory dish.
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result means bacteria, fungus, or virus grew in the laboratory dish. This may be a sign of infection.
A culture itself does not involve the patient, so there are no risks.
Other risks depend on the method used to take a sample of the bile.
Afdhal NH. Diseases of the gallbladder and bile ducts. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 159.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.