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Highland Hospital / Quality of Care / Pneumonia / Timing of Cultures

Timing of Cultures

In 2011, 97% of pneumonia patients at Highland Hospital received blood cultures in the Emergency Department prior to the initial antibiotic. This less than 100% rate may be due to that fact that some patients arrive with a degree of illness that requires almost immediate start of antibiotics, and a prompt start to antibiotics is more important than obtaining blood cultures first.


With bacterial pneumonia it is important to determine if bacteria are present in the blood or urine, and to identify appropriate antibiotics to treat the bacteria. Blood cultures are tests that detect microorganisms present in the blood. A sample of blood is kept in a controlled temperature environment on a culture plate for several days to allow microorganisms to grow and be identified. The Joint Commission recommends blood cultures prior to antibiotic administration.

There is also a new urine test for pneumonia that is recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The urine test takes only 15 minutes for results, whereas it may take days for blood culture results.