Collection of Stool Samples

Collecting Stool Samples for Testing

Your doctor may direct you to collect a stool sample or samples for a variety of tests -- for example, to screen for bacteria, viruses, intestinal parasites or other possible causes of your diarrhea, bloody stool, abdominal pain or other symptoms. Your doctor also may order a stool test in the absence of these symptoms to assess you for possible digestive problems, such as the malabsorption of certain sugars, fats or nutrients.

Preparation and Procedure

Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions regarding how many samples you will need to collect and when, as well as any dietary restrictions you must observe before or during collection.

  • Collect stool into a clean, dry container. You may provide your own container or obtain one from the lab.
  • Specimens must not be contaminated with urine or water, so collection from toilet bowls is unacceptable.
  • Print your name, date and time on the container with your sample.
  • Deliver the specimen to the lab immediately. You may refrigerate it if there is a delay in delivery; however, the specimen must arrive in the laboratory the same day it is collected.

Time Required

Your time at the lab will be limited to the amount of time it takes to sign in, register with admitting and leave your specimen. Results from the test are typically sent to your doctor within days; be assured, however, that any critical results are communicated immediately. Your doctor will discuss the results with you once he or she has reviewed them.


Michigan law requires that a valid order signed by an authorized person be presented before any laboratory test or procedure can be conducted. Authorized persons are defined as physicians, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. These professionals are legally responsible for interpreting the results of tests based on their knowledge of the individual patient.

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