Clinical significance of monoclonal B cells in cerebrospinal fluid

Grzegorz S. Nowakowski, Timothy G. Call, William G. Morice, Paul J. Kurtin, Rachel J. Cook, Clive S. Zent

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Morphologically malignant lymphocytes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are highly suggestive of central nervous system involvement by lymphoid malignancy. Although flow cytometry is increasingly used to detect a monoclonal B-cell population in the CSF, the significance of this finding in the absence of morphologically identifiable malignant cells is unknown. Methods: We reviewed CSF flow cytometric results in 32 patients studied at a single institution over 5 years and identified patients who had monoclonal B-cells in the CSF. Clinical presentation and course were reviewed. Results: Twelve patients had a monoclonal B-cell population in the CSF, but only three had clinical evidence of malignant CNS disease. Of the other nine patients, 4 had nonmalignant neurologic disease and five had a lymphoproliferative disorder: chronic lymphocytic leukemia (n = 4) and mantle cell lymphoma (n = 1). In patients who had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma, the monoclonal B-cell population was small and had an immunophenotype identical to that of circulating malignant B cells. None of these nine patients developed clinical evidence of malignant CNS involvement during follow-up. Conclusion: In patients who have indolent B-cell malignancies, the presence of monoclonal B cells in the CSF may not be diagnostic of clinically significant CNS involvement by a lymphoid malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-27
Number of pages5
JournalCytometry Part B - Clinical Cytometry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • CLL
  • CNS
  • Flow cytometry
  • Lymphoma
  • Monoclonal B-cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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