Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis


What is Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Analysis?

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and helps cushion and protect them from injury. A CSF analysis is a medical procedure in which a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid is taken from the spinal cord to be tested. It is usually done to look for signs of infection, inflammation, injury or other conditions, such as cancer, within the central nervous system (CNS).

Purpose of CSF Analysis

CSF analysis is used to help diagnose and monitor a variety of illnesses and disorders of the nervous system, including meningitis, encephalitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and some types of epilepsy. It can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of some treatments for these conditions.

CSF Analysis Preparation

Before a CSF analysis, your doctor will provide you with all the necessary instructions and let you know what you need to do to prepare for the procedure. This may include avoiding alcohol and certain medications prior to the test.

CSF Analysis Procedure

A CSF analysis is performed in a laboratory. A lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) is used to collect a sample of the fluid. During the procedure, a thin needle is inserted between the bones at the base of the spine to collect a sample for testing. Usually, about a teaspoon of CSF is taken. It takes up to 15 minutes to complete the procedure.

Types of CSF Analysis

There are two types of CSF analysis: chemical and physical. The chemical analysis looks for proteins, glucose (sugar), electrolytes, bacteria, viruses, white blood cells, and other substances that may indicate a CNS disorder or infection. The physical analysis looks for the presence of red blood cells, as well as any unusual substances, such as fat, mucus, or gas.

Risks of CSF Analysis

The risks associated with CSF analysis are minimal, but they include headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and fainting. These symptoms typically last a few days and can be managed with medication. Severe complications are rare, but they can include a spinal headache due to a CSF leak, nerve damage, and infection.

When is CSF Analysis Done?

A CSF analysis should be done if your doctor suspects you have an infection, inflammation, or other problem in your CNS. It may also be done if you have signs and symptoms of certain disorders, such as meningitis or multiple sclerosis. In some cases, a CSF analysis may be done routinely to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment.

Why is CSF Analysis Done?

A CSF analysis is used to diagnose or monitor a variety of disorders and diseases that involve the CNS. It can help detect infection or inflammation, as well as other troubles that may be causing the symptoms. It can also be used to monitor the effects of certain medications and treatments.