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 circulates in the space surrounding the spinal cord and brain.
How the test is performed
A sample of CSF is needed. A
Other methods for collecting CSF are rarely used, by may be recommended in some cases. They include:
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 laboratory for evaluation.
How to prepare for the test
How the test will feel
Why the test is performed
The CSF cell count may help diagnose
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
An increase of white blood cells indicates infection, inflammation, or bleeding into the cerebrospinal fluid. Some causes include:
- Other infections
Finding red blood cells in the CSF may be a sign of bleeding. However, red blood cells in the CSF may also be due to the spinal tap needle hitting a blood vessel while entering the skin or dura.
It is important to see if the red blood cell count returns to normal in samples taken later in the procedure as opposed to earlier. A ratio of the red blood cells to the white blood cells is also calculated to help with diagnosis.
Additional conditions which this test may help diagnose include:
Arteriovenous malformation (cerebral) Cerebral aneurysm Delirium Dementia Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Hemorrhagic stroke
Neurosyphilis Primary lymphoma of the brain
- Seizure disorders, including epilepsy
- Stroke secondary to syphilis
Syphilitic aseptic meningitis Syphilitic myelopathy
What the risks are
- Allergic reaction to the anesthetic
- Discomfort during the test
- Headache after the test
- Bleeding into the spinal canal
There may be temporary leg discomfort if a nerve root is irritated by the needle. This passes when the needle is withdrawn.