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Bacterial Meningitis
Acute Nonbacterial Meningitis
Chronic Meningitis
Other Conditions

Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is essential in evaluating the patient suspected of having an infection of the central nervous system (CNS), especially acute or chronic meningitis. In addition, analysis of CSF may permit the diagnosis of a noninfectious disease, such as meningeal carcinomatosis. Usually producing much anxiety and potentially causing pain or discomfort, the lumbar puncture requires technical skill and has the potential to lead to life-threatening complications. As a result of the substantial diagnostic value of CSF analysis and the considerable difficulties involved in securing the fluid, anyone contemplating a lumbar puncture must plan the procedure carefully, determining in advance which laboratory studies will be necessary and what volume of CSF will be required for them. Because improper handling of CSF can destroy the usefulness of a specimen, the physician performing the lumbar puncture must ensure that the fluid is processed promptly.

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