Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis is a group of laboratory tests that measure chemicals in the cerebrospinal fluid. CSF is a clear fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. The tests may look for proteins, sugar (glucose), and other substances.
Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
How the Test is Performed
A sample of CSF is needed. A
- Removal of CSF from a tube that is already in the CSF, such as a shunt, ventricular drain, or pain pump
After the sample is taken, it is sent to the laboratory for evaluation.
Your doctor will ask you to lie flat for at least one hour after the lumbar puncture. You may develop a headache after the lumbar puncture. If it happens, drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or soda may help.
How to Prepare for the Test
Your health care provider will tell you how to prepare for
Why the Test is Performed
Analysis of CSF can help detect certain conditions and diseases. All of the following can be, but are not always, measured in a sample of CSF:
- Antibodies and DNA of common viruses
- Bacteria (including that which causes syphilis, using a
VDRL test) Cell count
Lactate dehydrogenase Oligoclonal bandingto look for specific proteins
- Myelin basic protein
- Whether there are cancerous cells present
- Opening pressure
Normal results include:
- Antibodies and DNA of common viruses: None
- Bacteria: No bacteria grows in a lab culture
- Cancerous cells: No cancerous cells present
- Cell count: less than 5 white blood cells (all mononuclear) and 0 red blood cells
- Chloride: 110 to 125 mEq/L (110 to 125 mmol/L)
- Fungus: None
- Glucose: 50 to 80 mg/dL or 2.77 to 4.44 mmol/L (or greater than two-thirds of blood sugar level)
- Glutamine: 6 to 15 mg/dL (410.5 to 1,026 micromol/L)
- Lactate dehydrogenase: less than 40 U/L
- Oligoclonal bands: 0 or 1 bands that are not present in a matched serum sample
Protein: 15 to 60 mg/dL (0.15 to 0.6 g/L)
- Opening pressure: 90 to 180?mm of water
- Myelin basic protein: Less than 4ng/mL
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal CSF analysis result may be due to many different causes, including:
Encephalitis(such as West Nile and Eastern Equine) Hepatic encephalopathy
Reye syndrome Meningitisdue to bacteria, fungus, tuberculosis, or a virus
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Alzheimer disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Pseudotumor Cerebrii
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
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Karcher DS, McPherson RA. Cerebrospinal, synovial, serous body fluids, and alternative specimens. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 29.
Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 88.
Review Date: 04/21/2019
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