Oligoclonal bands are bands of immunoglobulins that are seen when a patient's blood plasma or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is analyzed by protein electrophoresis, a method of analyzing the composition of fluids. For the CSF analysis, a patient has a lumbar puncture performed, which removes some of their cerebrospinal fluid.
Each of the two to five oligoclonal bands seen by this method represent proteins (or protein fragments) secreted by plasma cells, although why exactly these bands are present, and which proteins these bands represent, has not yet been elucidated. The presence of oligoclonal bands in spinal fluid often indicates a disease of the central nervous system if the bands are not also found in blood serum. These bands are an important indicator in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Approximately 79%-90% of all patients with multiple sclerosis have permanently observable oligoclonal bands.
The presence of one band (a monoclonal band) is not considered serious and may simply be normal. More bands may reflect the presence of a disease. The bands tend to disappear from the spinal fluid as a person recovers from the neurological disease.
Oligoclonal bands are also found in:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Devic's disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Subarachnoid haemorrhage
- CNS Lymphoma
- The Medical School, Birmingham University - Abid R Karim, Birmingham UK, Presentation of real world examples and further insights