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CSF cell count

  • Definition
    • A CSF cell count is a test to measure the number of red and white blood cells that are in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a clear fluid that in the space around the spinal cord and brain.

  • How the Test is Performed
    • A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is the most common way to collect this sample. Rarely, other methods are used for collecting CSF such as:

      • Cisternal puncture
      • Ventricular puncture
      • Removal of CSF from a tube that is already in the CSF, such as a shunt or ventricular drain.

      After the sample is taken, it is sent to a lab for evaluation.

  • Why the Test is Performed
    • The CSF cell count may help detect:

      • Meningitis and infection of the brain or spinal cord
      • Tumor, abscess, or area of tissue death (infarct)
      • Inflammation
      • Bleeding into the spinal fluid
  • Normal Results
    • The normal white blood cell count is between 0 and 5. The normal red blood cell count is 0.

      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
  • References
    • Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 396.

      Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 59.