CSF total protein
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CSF total protein is a test to determine the amount of protein in your spinal fluid, also called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
How the test is performed
A sample of CSF is needed. A
(spinal tap) is the most common way to collect this sample. For information on this procedure, see the article on .
Other methods for collecting CSF are rarely used, by may be recommended in some cases. They include:
After the sample is taken, it is sent to a laboratory for evaluation.
Why the test is performed
Your doctor may order this test to help diagnose tumors, infection, inflammation of several groups of nerve cells, vasculitis, blood in the spinal fluid, or injury.
The normal protein range varies from lab to lab, but is typically about 15 to 60 mg/dL.
Note: mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What abnormal results mean
An abnormal protein level in the CSF suggests that there is an abnormal process occurring in the central nervous system.
When the protein level increases, it may be a sign of a tumor, bleeding, nerve inflammation, or injury. Protein can rapidly build up in the lower spinal area where the lumbar puncture is done, if something is blocking the flow of spinal fluid.
When the protein level in decreases, it can mean your body is rapidly producing spinal fluid.
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier. 2007: chap 418.
Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Bradley: Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 63.
- Last reviewed on 4/30/2011
- Kevin Sheth, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine;David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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