Flow cytometric characterization of cerebrospinal fluid cells
Flow cytometry facilitates the detection of a large spectrum of cellular characteristics on a per cell basis, determination of absolute cell numbers and detection of rare events with high sensitivity and specificity. White blood cell (WBC) counts in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are important for the diagnosis of many neurological disorders. WBC counting and differential can be performed by microscopy, hematology analyzers, or flow cytometry. Flow cytometry of CSF is increasingly being considered as the method of choice in patients suspected of leptomeningeal localization of hematological malignancies. Additionally, in several neuroinflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis and paraneoplastic neurological syndromes, flow cytometry is commonly performed to obtain insight into the immunopathogenesis of these diseases. Technically, the low cellularity of CSF samples, combined with the rapidly declining WBC viability, makes CSF flow cytometry challenging. Comparison of flow cytometry with microscopic and molecular techniques shows that each technique has its own advantages and is ideally combined. We expect that increasing the number of flow cytometric parameters that can be simultaneously studied within one sample, will further refine the information on CSF cell subsets in low-cellular CSF samples and enable to define cell populations more accurately.