Which CSF findings from lumbar puncture suggest a specific infection?

Updated: Aug 02, 2018
  • Author: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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A larger-than-usual number of white blood cells (WBCs) suggests an infection or, more rarely, leukemic infiltration. Although bacterial infections are traditionally associated with a preponderance of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), many cases of viral meningitis and encephalitis also show a high percentage of PMNs in the acute phase of the illness (when most lumbar punctures are done). In addition, inflammation from any source (eg, CNS vasculitis) can raise the WBC count.

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