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Spinal-Fluid Pleocytosis Estimated by the Tyndall Effect

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Departments of Neurology and Pathology, University of California, San Francisco; San Francisco, California

Ann Intern Med. 1978;89(1):75-76. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-89-1-75
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Laboratory studies now frequently establish diagnoses that once depended entirely on clinical evaluation. However, bedside observations continue to provide early clues to proper diagnosis while serving as an important check on the laboratory.

One such bedside technique is the ability to detect spinal-fluid cellularity by simple visual inspection of the specimen. Authorities agree that spinal fluid appears clear and colorless until pleocytosis approaches approximately 300 to 500 cells/mm3, at which time a turbid (ground-glass, cloudy) quality to the fluid will gradually appear (1-5). However, spinal-fluid cell counts well below the number necessary to produce turbidity can be readily detected with


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