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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 1/2017

Cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities in meningeosis neoplastica: a retrospective 12-year analysis

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS > Ausgabe 1/2017
Marija Djukic, Ralf Trimmel, Ingelore Nagel, Annette Spreer, Peter Lange, Christine Stadelmann, Roland Nau



Meningeosis neoplastica is a diffuse metastatic spread of tumor cells in the subarachnoid space. Although first recognized in 1870, systematic investigations regarding cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) constituents in this condition are scarce.


Routine CSF samples analyzed from 2001 to 2012 at the Laboratory of Clinical Neurochemistry, University of Göttingen, were re-evaluated. Patients, whose CSF contained malignant cells were included in this study.


Patients (n = 132, age 59.1 ± 29.1, 58% women) were identified, whose CSF contained malignant cells. The most frequent primary tumor was breast cancer (32.6%), followed by lung cancer (25.0%) and hematologic malignancies (21.2%). The most frequent clinical symptoms were affections of cranial nerves (41.7%), psychiatric abmormalities (32.6%) and radicular lesions of the lower extremities (20.5%). CSF cell counts ranged from 0 to 4692 cells/μl (median 4 cells/μl) and were elevated in 50%. The CSF-to-serum albumin ratio was abnormal in 69.4%. It ranged from 1.8 to 330 x 10-3 (median 17.5 x 10-3). Total CSF protein ranged from 166 to 15,840 mg/l (median 1012 mg/l). CSF lactate was elevated (>2.4 mmol/l) in 65.2% [3.6 mmol/l (1.3/15.6 mmol/l); median (minimum/maximum)]. In 50% of all patients CSF lactate was ≥3.5 mmol/l. The CSF cell counts correlated significantly with the CSF lactate levels and the CSF protein contents. In 56 of 118 CSF samples (47.5%) ferritin was elevated, and in 25 of 65 carcinoma patients (38.5%) an intrathecal production of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) was detected. Granulocytes were found in 52.7% of the CSF samples. The percentages of granulocytes and lymphocytes were higher in samples with an elevated cell count.


In approximately 50% of CSF samples with meningeosis neoplastica the CSF cell count is not elevated. Diagnosis may be missed when only CSF samples with elevated cell counts are subjected to cytological analysis. CSF lactate and protein and the CSF-to-serum albumin ratio are frequently increased in meningeosis neoplastica. The differential diagnosis between meningeosis neoplastica and central nervous infections, in particular tuberculous or fungal meningitis, can be difficult.
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