What Is The Color of Spinal Fluid?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

Ask the experts

I just had a spinal tap done and was wondering about the color of the fluid and what it meant.

Doctor's response

The fluid that is obtained from a spinal tap is called cerebrospinal fluid or CSF, for short. Normal CSF is a clear, colorless fluid that contains small quantities of glucose (a sugar) and protein. CSF surrounds the outside of the brain and spinal cord and also fills the ventricles (spaces) of the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord.

Although laboratory tests on the CSF will of course provide far more detailed and extensive information, the sight of cloudy or colored CSF yields a very quick clue that something may be seriously wrong. Turbid (cloudy) CSF can reflect infection within the CSF (meningitis). A red color occurs with new blood or brownish with old blood. This can give a clue indicating that a bleed has occurred and giving an idea as to how long ago the bleed into the central nervous system occurred.


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