Blood Culture Utilization in the Hospital Setting: a Call for Diagnostic Stewardship

J Clin Microbiol. 2022 Mar 16;60(3):e0100521. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01005-21. Epub 2021 Jul 14.


There has been significant progress in detection of bloodstream pathogens in recent decades with the development of more sensitive automated blood culture detection systems and the availability of rapid molecular tests for faster organism identification and detection of resistance genes. However, most blood cultures in clinical practice do not grow organisms, suggesting that suboptimal blood culture collection practices (e.g., suboptimal blood volume) or suboptimal selection of patients to culture (i.e., blood cultures ordered for patients with low likelihood of bacteremia) may be occurring. A national blood culture utilization benchmark does not exist, nor do specific guidelines on when blood cultures are appropriate or when blood cultures are of low value and waste resources. Studies evaluating the potential harm associated with excessive blood cultures have focused on blood culture contamination, which has been associated with significant increases in health care costs and negative consequences for patients related to exposure to unnecessary antibiotics and additional testing. Optimizing blood culture performance is important to ensure bloodstream infections (BSIs) are diagnosed while minimizing adverse events from overuse. In this review, we discuss key factors that influence blood culture performance, with a focus on the preanalytical phase, including technical aspects of the blood culture collection process and blood culture indications. We highlight areas for improvement and make recommendations to improve current blood culture practices among hospitalized patients.

Keywords: benchmark; blood culture; healthcare resources; indications; utilization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteremia* / diagnosis
  • Bacteremia* / drug therapy
  • Blood Culture
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Sepsis* / diagnosis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents