Test Directory

CSF Cell Count and Differential

Containers - Adult

20ml Sterile Universal Container
Volume Range

1 - 3ml

Additive per Container

No additive

Reference ranges

​White blood cells are not usually present in CSF.

Laboratory Site

51 Little France Crescent
Old Dalkeith Road
EH16 4SA
Telephone (Bacteriology): 0131 242 6021 OOH Bleep 2900
Howden Road West
West Lothian
EH54 6PP
Telephone (Bacteriology): 01506 52 3075 OOH contact RIE
Crewe Road South
Telephone: 0131 537 1000

Transport arrangements

Microscopy for cell count must be performed within 2 hours of specimen collection; please transport to lab as soon as possible.

Sample storage arrangements

Store at room temperature if transport is delayed.

Special instructions for collection

Useful: Analysis of CSF cell count and white cell differential may be useful in the diagnosis of meningitis, encephalitis, ventriculitis or sub-arachnoid haemorrhage.

Aseptic technique must be used. Minimum of 1-3mls required for cell count and bacterial culture. 

How to request

Via Trak (at RIE and SJH "C&S - CSF", at WGH "CSF cell count WGH")


WGH - Haematology: Monday - Friday: routine service 09:00 - 16:00.  Outside these hours, please courier sample to RIE and contact the RIE bacteriology laboratory for urgent samples.
SJH Bacteriology - 0900 - 1700 Mon - Fri, 0900-1600 Sat and Sun. CSF samples taken during the above opening times: Once CSF sample is taken, contact the Microbiology Lab at SJH on EXT 53077 or 53080 to alert them, a sample has been taken (giving patient and contact details). Sample must be taken to the Microbiology Lab at SJH. If out of hours, contact the SJH biochemistry lab on bleep 3728 to alert them a sample is coming, contact the Microbiology BMS at the RIE on ext. 26021 or bleep 2900. SJH biochemistry will arrange transport to Microbiology at RIE. 
RIE: for samples out of hours, please contact Microbiology BMS at RIE on ext 26021 or bleep 2900. 

Anticipated turnaround

Microscopy within 30 minutes of receipt. Culture: up to 4 days.

What happens if the result is positive or abnormal

Result will automatically appear on TRAK and will be phoned by BMS. Clinical interpretation required.

General additional information

At the WGH, this sample is processed by Haematology. An automated white cell count is performed on the sample. If white cells are found, a cytospin is prepared, and a manual white cell differential is performed by microscopy.  For further information, please contact the laboratory on 0131 537 1914. See also test "Cerebrospinal fluid - Routine M, C & S"