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Step-By-Step Guide: Stool Specimen Collection Procedure

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 30, 2023

    Step-By-Step Guide: Stool Specimen Collection Procedure

    Stool analysis, also called fecalysis or stool exam, is a series of tests done on the feces. Doctors often recommend fecalysis as a part of a routine check-up or because they suspect problems in the digestive system. The results can help diagnose a wide range of conditions, from infections, malabsorption to cancer. In the laboratory, the technician checks the stool’s color, odor, and content (mucus, blood, microorganisms, or blood cells). Since improper collection might affect the result, this article focuses on the stool specimen collection procedure.

    Take Note of the Instructions 

    An essential step in the stool specimen collection procedure is preparation.

    The doctor may advise against consuming certain foods or taking some medicines starting a few days before collecting the specimen. Generally, 72 hours before the collection, you might need to avoid:

  • Using laxatives, such as castor oil
  • Eating synthetic fat
  • Taking supplements that block fat absorption
  • There may be other restrictions depending on what the doctor is trying to check in the stool sample. Case in point: If they are looking for hidden (occult) blood, they might ask you not to take vitamin C, pain reliever, red meat, or certain fruits and veggies at least three days before the specimen collection.

    Stool Specimen Collection Procedure

    Below is the specimen collection procedure:

    Step 1: Label Your Container

    Most laboratory clinics and hospitals provide sterile containers for stool collection, but you can purchase one from the nearest pharmacy. As much as possible, choose a container that includes a scoop.

    Before collecting the specimen, label the container with your full name and date and time of collection.

    Step 2: Urinate First

    Before collecting the sample, empty your bladder first. That way, you will not get urine into the sample.

    Afterward, wipe from front to back, and wash your hands thoroughly.

    Step 3: Collect the Stool Specimen

    Proper stool specimen collection procedure means you will not collect feces that came in contact with the inside of the toilet or the water in it.

    Place a clean container in the toilet to catch the stool. It can be a plastic basin, plastic wrap, or even a spread of newspaper. Then, use the scoop that comes with the container to obtain the sample. Note that portions of feces with blood or mucus are particularly significant. Aim to fill 1/3 of the container or about the size of a walnut.

    If you have diarrhea, tape a plastic bag in the bowl to collect feces for collection.

    Finally, screw the lid of the container tightly and place it in a sealable plastic bag.

    Step 4: Deliver the Specimen to the Laboratory

    It would be best if you delivered the stool sample as fast as possible. The longer it takes to deliver the specimen, the more chances there are for the microorganisms to multiply. This means the stool no longer correctly represents the levels of microorganisms in the gut. Sometimes, even refrigerated specimens cannot be analyzed.

    If you can’t hand in the sample as soon as possible, talk to your doctor about it. They might give you advice on refrigeration (correct temperature, how long, etc.).

    Key Takeaways

    Doctors use the results of fecalysis to help diagnose diseases involving the digestive tract.
    The stool specimen collection procedure includes following the preparation guidelines. You might need to avoid certain foods and medications starting a few days before the collection of stool.
    During the collection, empty your bladder first so as not to get urine on the sample. Also, the sample shouldn’t come in contact with the inside of the toilet. You need a clean container, plastic wrap, or newspaper for the stool.
    Finally, deliver the stool specimen as soon as possible. A sample that’s not fresh may not give accurate results.

    Learn more about Medical Tests here



    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 30, 2023

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