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Int J Pediatr. 2012;2012:964074. doi: 10.1155/2012/964074. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Postmortem cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis: a marker of inflammation or postmortem artifact?

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  • 1University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Ashton Road, Lancaster, LA1 4RP, UK.


The aim of this paper is to reassess the significance of postmortem cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis. Published articles of CSF changes after death were reviewed, and reanalysis, in the light of modern views on the significance of bacterial postmortem isolates, was undertaken. There is theoretical and experimental evidence that the blood brain barrier to the movement of protein and cells is preserved in the first few hours after death. The number of mononuclear cells in the cerebrospinal fluid does rise in the first 24 hours after death, and this is most probably due to detachment of leptomeningeal lining cells. But the marked increase in lymphocyte counts seen in some cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and in other deaths in the paediatric age range could well be a marker of inflammation.

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