Optimal Testing Parameters for Blood Cultures

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The effects of volume of blood, number of consecutive cultures, and incubation time on pathogen recovery were evaluated for 37,568 blood cultures tested with the automated BACTEC 9240 instrument (Becton Dickinson Diagnostic Instrument Systems) at a tertiary care center over the period of 12 June 1996 through 12 October 1997. When the results for this study were compared with previous data published for manual broth-based blood culture systems and patient samples obtained in the 1970s and 1980s, the following were found: (1) the percentage increase in pathogen recovery per milliliter of blood is less, (2) more consecutive blood culture sets over a 24-h period are required to detect bloodstream pathogens, and (3) a shorter duration of incubation is required to diagnose bloodstream infections. Guidelines developed in the 1970s and 1980s for processing and culturing blood may require revision.

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