Brain abscess laboratory tests

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]'; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Farwa Haideri [2]

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Most laboratory tests are not diagnostic for brain abscess. In 25% of findings, the CSF is normal or shows unspecific changes. An increase of the erythrocyte sedimentation rate has also been associated with brain abscess.

Laboratory Findings

Laboratory findings consistent with the diagnosis of brain abscesses include cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).[1] Blood examinations may reveal inflammatory signs with an elevation of C-reactive proteins.[2]

  • In approximately 25% of findings, the CSF is normal or shows unspecific changes.
    • It is difficult to isolate the pathogens from the CSF due to a lack of communication of the abscess with the CSF spaces.[2]
  • Some patients have been seen to herniate after CSF procedure.
    • In one study, 41 out of 120 patients deteriorated within 48 hours, and 25 of these individuals died.
  • There is a moderate increase in ESR.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Schlossberg, David (2008), Clinical Infectious Disease (1st ed.), New York, New York: Cambridge University Press
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hähnel, Stefan (2009), Inflammatory Diseases of the Brain (2nd ed.), Berlin, Germany: Springer

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