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Venereal Disease Laboratory Test of the Cerebrospinal Fluid - VDRL Test


Overview & Description

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 \congenital syphilis.\ ',CAPTION,'Syphilis');" onmouseout="return nd();">syphilis. The test is done on a sample of cerebrospinal fluid, which is called CSF. CSF fills the space between the brain and spinal cord and the membranes that surround them. The test can detect antibodies to the germ that causes syphilis. An antibody is a protein that the body produces in response to a foreign substance.

Who is a candidate for the test?

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.

How is the test performed?

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.


Preparation & Expectations

What is involved in preparation for the test?

A person should request instructions from his or her doctor prior to a spinal tap.


Results and Values

What do the test results mean?

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 \congenital syphilis.\ ',CAPTION,'Syphilis');" onmouseout="return nd();">syphilis are found. If the test is positive, then antibodies were found. That means that the person has neurosyphilis. Neurosyphilis is a serious, late stage of syphilis that affects the central nervous system.


Attribution

Author:David T. Moran, MD
Date Written:
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Edit Date:10/16/02
Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
Date Reviewed:10/16/02


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