Cerebrospinal Analysis in Patients with COVID-19

Emily Happy Miller, Vivian S. Namale, Carla Kim, Rachelle Dugue, Greer Waldrop, Prajwal Ciryam, Alexander M. Chong, Jason Zucker, Eliza C. Miller, Jennifer M. Bain, Joshua Z. Willey, Kevin Doyle, Amelia Boehme, Jan Claassen, Anne Catrin Uhlemann, Kiran T. Thakur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Assessment of the impact of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis including investigation for the presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is essential for the optimization of patient care. Methods: In this case series, we review patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 undergoing lumbar puncture (LP) admitted to Columbia University Irving Medical Center (New York, NY, USA) from March 1 to May 26, 2020. In a subset of patients, CSF SARS-CoV-2 quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) testing is performed. Results: The average age of 27 patients who underwent LP with definitive SARS-CoV-2 (SD) was 37.5 (28.7) years. CSF profiles showed elevated white blood cell counts and protein in 44% and 52% of patients, respectively. LP results impacted treatment decisions in 10 (37%) patients, either by change of antibiotics, influence in disposition decision, or by providing an alternative diagnosis. CSF SARS-CoV-2 qRT-PCR was performed on 8 (30%) patients, with negative results in all samples. Conclusions: Among patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, CSF results changed treatment decisions or disposition in over one-third of our patient cohort. CSF was frequently abnormal, though CSF SARS-CoV-2 qRT-PCR was negative in all samples. Further studies are required to define whether CSF SARS-CoV-2 testing is warranted in certain clinical contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberofaa501
JournalOpen Forum Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • lumbar puncture
  • neuroinvasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Clinical Neurology


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