This is a test for a sexually transmitted disease called
Treponema pallidum\ bacteria. Less often, syphilis is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby. This form of syphilis is known as \
A doctor may want to perform this test if he or she suspects a person has syphilis that involves the central nervous system, the brain, or the spinal cord.
To perform the CSF VDRL test, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is usually collected by a spinal tap, which is also called a lumbar puncture. This procedure is done in the hospital. The person lies on his or her side with the knees bent. An area on the lower back above lumbar vertebrae 3 and 4 is cleaned and sterilized. Next, the area is injected with a local anesthetic, a drug designed to numb the area to pain. When the area is numb, a needle is gently inserted between the vertebrae into the fluid-filled space around the spinal cord. A small sample of the fluid is removed. It is then sent to the laboratory for testing. The person is asked to lie flat for several hours after the test. This can help prevent some of the side effects of the test, such as headache.
A person should request instructions from his or her doctor prior to a spinal tap.
In a healthy person, the test is negative. This means that no antibodies
to the organism that causes Treponema pallidum\ bacteria. Less often, syphilis is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby. This form of syphilis is known as \
Author:David T. Moran, MD
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN