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Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis
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What Is Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis Or CSF Test?

Wondering about the CSF test? This is known as the cerebrospinal fluid analysis in most cases, a group of tests for analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid in order to find out ailments impacting the spinal cord and brain. The CSF fluid or cerebrospinal fluid is a colorless and clear liquid found in the spinal cord and brain, which collectively comprise the central nervous system of the body. 

Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis

The CNS holds responsibilities for the coordination and control of all human activities including planning, thinking, organ functioning, movements of muscles, etc. CSF enables the protection of the CNS through working as a cushion against any sudden spinal cord/brain injuries, while also dispersing waste items from the brain, enabling smooth functioning overall. The tests are also called CSF Analysis or Spinal Fluid Analysis. 

CSF Test Overview: 

Name of Test CSF Test
Other Names CSF Analysis, Spinal Fluid Analysis 
Diagnosis Parameters Used for diagnosing spinal cord and brain diseases (infectious), auto-immune ailments and bleeding in the brain along with brain tumors. 
CSF Symptoms Fever, stiff neck, headaches, seizures, behavioral changes, double vision, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, etc. 
Also Included In  Health Insurance Plans
Cost Rs. 600 – Rs. 1,200 depending on the city and lab

 

What is the purpose of a CSF Test? 

The CSF test procedure is useful for diagnosing the following: 

  1. Infectious Spinal Cord and Brain Ailments- These include encephalitis, meningitis and many other similar infectious diseases. The tests examine bacteria, white blood cells and other items in the CSF. 
  2. Auto-Immune Ailments- These include MS (multiple sclerosis) and the Guillain-Barre Syndrome which detect higher protein levels in CSF fluid. They are also called igG/albumin and albumin protein. 
  3. Brain tumors or Bleeding – This test also helps detect brain tumors. Besides, it helps to track the reason for internal bleeding.

When to get a CSF Test done? 

The test is necessary in case of the following symptoms: 

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Double Vision
  • Stiffness in the Neck
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral Changes
  • Confusion

MS has symptoms like double/blurry vision, muscle spasms, dizziness, issues with bladder control, tingling sensations in the face, legs or arms, weaker muscles, etc. Guillain-Barre Syndrome symptoms include tingling sensations in the arms, legs and upper body along with overall weakness. CSF testing may also be needed if there is any spinal cord or brain injury or a cancer diagnosis. 

A Guide to the Testing Procedure

The CSF fluid is collected via the spinal tap process or lumbar puncture. This is mostly done at a hospital or healthcare centre. Here are the steps in the procedure: 

  1. The patient will lie on the side or sit on the examination table. 
  2. The doctor will clean the back before injecting anesthetic into the skin. He or she may also use numbing cream prior to the injection. 
  3. A thin and hollow needle will be inserted between the two vertebrae in the lower spine. 
  4. The doctor will withdraw a small CSF fluid amount for testing purposes. This procedure requires just a few minutes. 
  5. Patients have to stay relaxed during this process without any movements. 
  6. They may be asked to lie down for some time afterwards. 

Is Any CSF Testing Preparation Required? 

There is no exclusive preparation that you need for this test. However, the doctor may ask you to completely empty the bowels and bladder prior to taking the test. 

Risk Factors Involved

There are negligible risks present for the spinal tap procedure. Individuals may only feel a pinching sensation or witness some pressure upon the insertion of the needle. Post this test, they may also encounter a headache, which is known as the post-lumbar headache. Approximately 1 out of 10 individuals get this type of headache after the testing procedure. This may go on for some hours or even a week in extreme cases. If you have any such headache exceeding some hours, then you should consult your doctor swiftly afterwards. The doctor will ensure treatment for relieving these symptoms and the pain. 

There could also be some tenderness or pain in the back at the spot of insertion of the needle. You may also experience a little bleeding at the injection site afterwards. 

Results of the CSF Test

The CSF test results may indicate the presence of an infection or any auto-immune disease like MS (multiple sclerosis). It may also indicate another spinal cord or brain disease. The doctor is expected to ask for more testing in order to confirm and substantiate the diagnosis in such cases. 

Conclusion

The CSF test is necessary for patients in various scenarios. Some types of infections such as meningitis which happens due to bacteria may be potentially fatal as well. If the doctor suspects any such ailment or any other serious disease, then he or she may recommend specific medication prior to the confirmation of the diagnosis as well. It is important to keep your doctor in the loop at all times about any symptoms that you are facing and also adhere to all his or her instructions. 

FAQs

What is the CSF fluid? 

The cerebrospinal fluid or CSF is a clear and colorless liquid. It is contained in the brain and spinal cord, which together comprise the central nervous system of the body. The CSF safeguards the central nervous system, working as a cushion against injuries or other issues. It also helps in the elimination of waste substances from the brain. 

What are the probable results of the CSF test? 

The results of a CSF test may indicate any infectious disease or even an auto-immune disorder. This could also be multiple sclerosis or MS in some cases. It may also indicate the presence of any other brain or spinal cord ailment which may require follow-up testing and diagnosis. 

What are the risk factors of the CSF test? 

While overall risks are negligible for the CSF test, there are post-lumbar headaches that may be witnessed by those undergoing the same. This may plague the individual for up to a few hours in most cases. However, they may sometimes go on till a week or whereabouts. Facing such headaches beyond a few hours necessitates reaching out to the doctor swiftly for treatment and relief. 

What are the symptoms necessitating a CSF test? 

There could be various symptoms that necessitate getting a CSF test. They include fever, headaches, seizures, double vision and even stiffness in the neck. Some additional symptoms include changes in behavioral patterns and also a prevailing sense of confusion. 

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