Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) collection - Results
Spinal tap; Ventricular puncture; Lumbar puncture; Cisternal puncture; Cerebrospinal fluid culture
Normal values typically range as follows:
- Pressure: 70 - 180 mm H20
- Appearance: clear, colorless
- CSF total protein: 15 - 60 mg/100 mL
- Gamma globulin: 3 - 12% of the total protein
- CSF glucose: 50 - 80 mg/100 mL (or greater than 2/3 of blood sugar level)
- CSF cell count: 0 - 5 white blood cells (all mononuclear), and no red blood cells
- Chloride: 110 - 125 mEq/L
Note: mg/mL = milligrams per milliliter; mEq/L = milliequivalents per liter
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor 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:
If the CSF looks cloudy, it could mean there is an infection or a build up of white blood cells or protein.
If the CSF looks bloody or red, it may be a sign of bleeding or spinal cord obstruction. If it is brown, orange, or yellow, it may be a sign of increased CSF protein or previous bleeding (more than 3 days ago). Occasionally, there may be blood in the sample that came from the spinal tap itself. This makes it harder to interpret the test results.
- Increased CSF protein may be due to blood in the CSF, diabetes, polyneuritis, tumor, injury, or any inflammatory or infectious condition.
- Decreased protein is a sign of rapid CSF production.
- Increased CSF glucose is a sign of high blood sugar.
- Decreased CSF glucose may be due to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), bacterial or fungal infection (such as meningitis), tuberculosis, or certain other types of meningitis.
BLOOD CELLS IN CSF
- Increased white blood cells in the CSF may be a sign of meningitis, acute infection, beginning of a chronic illness, tumor, abscess,stroke, or demyelinating disease (such as multiple sclerosis).
- Red blood cells in the CSF sample may be a sign of bleeding into the spinal fluid or the result of a traumatic lumbar puncture.
OTHER CSF RESULTS
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
- Reviewed last on: 6/18/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Kevin Sheth, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier. 2007: chap 418.
Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 63.
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