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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Spinal Tap: Results and Values

Spinal Tap

Alternate Names : Lumbar Puncture, LP

Spinal Tap | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

What do the test results mean?

Normally, spinal fluid will be clear and colorless, contain no blood, and contain no organisms. Protein levels are usually 15 to 45 mg/dl of CSF, although in the elderly and children the level may be 70 mg/dl. Lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels are usually less than 2.0 to 7.2 U/ml.

Abnormal results may be caused by many different conditions:

  • Elevated protein, lactic dehydrogenase(LDH), and muddy or dense spinal fluid with malignant cells may indicate a brain tumor or cancer in the brain, spinal cord, or cancer that has spread to these areas.
  • CSF that looks muddy and may contain increased protein levels and increased LDH levels may indicate degenerative brain disease, automimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, or other diseases.
  • CSF that looks muddy instead of clear, has elevated protein and LDH levels, and tests positive for immunologic testing indicate possible neurosyphilis.
  • CSF that has high protein levels, muddy color, and red blood cells may indicate subarachnoid bleeding which is bleeding in the membranes surrounding the brain, cerebral bleeding, or a traumatic spinal tap.
  • Elevated glutamine levels in the CSF may indicate encephalitis, which is swelling in brain, myelitis, which is inflammation of the spinal cord, or hepatic coma.
  • Elevated white blood cells and protein in the CSF may indicate meningitis, which is a very serious inflammation of the spinal cord or brain, encephalitis, or a brain abscess.

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    Spinal Tap: Preparation & Expectations


    Author: Linda Agnello, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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