Population-Based Evaluation of Total Protein in Cerebrospinal Fluid

Kalli J. Fautsch, Darci R. Block, Jonathan Graff-Radford, Feng Wang, Emily C. Craver, David O. Hodge, Jeremy K. Cutsforth-Gregory, Khin P. Kilgore, Ronald C. Petersen, David S. Knopman, Eoin Flanagan, Michel Toledano, Michelle M. Mielke, M. Tariq Bhatti, John J. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To present a normal range of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) protein levels in a community-based population and to evaluate factors that contribute to CSF protein level variability. Patients and Methods: Samples of CSF protein were obtained from participants aged 32 to 95 years who underwent lumbar puncture (LP) between November 1, 2007, and October 1, 2017, as part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, a longitudinal, population-based study of residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota. Results: A total of 633 participants (58.1% male; 99.1% White; mean ± SD age, 70.9±11.6 years) underwent LP with recorded CSF protein level. Mean ± SD CSF protein level was 52.2±18.4 mg/dL (to convert to mg/L, multiply by 10), with a 95% reference interval of 24.0 to 93.4 mg/dL (range, 14.0-148.0 mg/dL). Spinal stenosis and arterial hypertension were associated with higher CSF protein levels on univariable analysis (P<.001). Increasing age, male sex, and diabetes were all independently associated with higher CSF protein levels on multivariable analysis (P<.001). In the 66 participants with repeated LPs within 2.5 years, the coefficient of repeatability was 26.1 mg/dL. Eleven participants (16.7%) had a CSF protein level difference of 20 mg/dL or more between serial LPs, and 4 (6.1%) had a difference of 25 mg/dL or more. There was a trend toward greater CSF protein level variability in patients with spinal stenosis (P=.054). Conclusion: This large population-based study showed that CSF protein level can vary significantly among individuals. Elevated CSF protein level was independently associated with older age, male sex, and diabetes and is higher than listed in many laboratories. These findings emphasize the necessity of evidence-based reevaluation and standardization of CSF protein metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-251
Number of pages13
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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