CSF-VDRL testVenereal disease research laboratory slide test - CSF; Neurosyphilis - VDRL
Neurosyphilis is a bacterial infection of the brain or spinal cord. It usually occurs in people who have had untreated syphilis for many years....
An antibody is a protein produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include micr...
How the Test is Performed
Sample of spinal fluid is needed
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. CSF acts as a cushion, protecting the b...
How to Prepare for the Test
Follow the health care provider's instructions on how to prepare for this test.
Why the Test is Performed
The CSF-VDRL test is done to diagnose syphilis in the brain or spinal cord. Brain and spinal cord involvement is often a sign of late-stage syphilis.
The VDRL test is a screening test for syphilis. It measures substances (proteins), called antibodies, which your body may produce if you have come i...
RPR (rapid plasma reagin) is a screening test for syphilis. It measures substances (proteins) called antibodies that are present in the blood of peo...
A negative result is normal.
False-negatives can occur. This means you can have syphilis even if this test is normal. Therefore, a negative test does not always rule out the infection. Other signs and tests may be used to diagnose neurosyphilis.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A positive result is abnormal and is a sign of neurosyphilis.
Risks for this test are those related to lumbar puncture, which may include:
- Bleeding into the spinal canal or around the brain (subdural hematomas).
- Discomfort during the test.
- Headache after the test that can last a few hours or days. If headaches last more than a few days (especially when you sit, stand or walk) you might have a CSF-leak. You should talk to your physician if this occurs.
- Hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction to the anesthetic.
- Infection introduced by the needle going through the skin.
Your provider can tell you about any other risks.
Karcher DS, McPherson RA. Cerebrospinal, synovial, serous body fluids, and alternative specimens. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 29.
Radolf JD, Tramont EC, Salazar JC. Syphilis (Treponema pallidum). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 237.
CSF test for syphilis - illustration
Venereal disease research laboratory test (VDRL) of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is used to screen for syphilis. CSF is a clear fluid that circulates in the space surrounding the spinal cord.
CSF test for syphilis
Review Date: 8/25/2019
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.