Pathology Handbook

Cerebrospinal fluid



Clinical Indications


Test Includes

Cell count, microscopy for bacteria, latex tests for bacterial antigens if indicated by other findings, bacterial culture

Viral detection of other pathogens may be performed if indicated by laboratory findings or if specifically requested; reference laboratory test (Adenbrookes / Manchester)

Request Form

ICE request


On request

The Microbiology Laboratory MUST be notified prior to sending all CSF samples.

Telephone ext 6605 during normal working hours or contact the duty Microbiologist via the hospital switchboard at other times

Specific Criteria

Please give detailed clinical information, including date of onset/contact with any suspected infection and any previous, current, or intended, antibiotic therapy

Turnaround Time

Tests normally performed on receipt of sample, but may take up to 2 hours if initial microscopy is positive and further tests need to be performed. Culture results available 48 - 72 hours after receipt, PCR tests up to 10 days


Cerebrospinal fluid



Urine bottle white top

3 x White Capped Universal

Label as 1, 2 and 3


Samples MUST be transported to laboratory immediately.

Samples to be shared with Clinical Chemistry (i.e. sample for protein / xanthochromia) must be sent to Microbiology first. These will be passed on immediately following culture

Causes for Rejection

Samples containing clots are unsuitable for cell count

Reference Range

Lab Handling

Process on receipt