Definition of Sputum

Sputum is the mucus and secretions the pulmonary tract produces, mixed with debris and foreign matter that enter the airways. Sputum is a normal body fluid, though excessive amounts of sputum often signal pulmonary disease.

The color and consistency of sputum provide clues about the health of the lungs and airways, though are not reliable diagnostic characteristics by themselves. Sputum culture is the only way to know whether an infection is bacterial. A reliable sputum culture requires deep coughing to bring sputum from within the lungs.


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