Use of immunocytology for accurate identification of malignant cells in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) has so far been hampered by high cell requirements of the immunologic methods hitherto used. In an attempt to minimize cell loss in cytopreparation, electrostatic binding of cells to poly-L-lysine (PLL)-coated multispot slides, followed by immunocytochemistry, was investigated. Using optimized conditions of cell attachment and fixation and performing all washing procedures on the slide made multimarker analysis possible even in paucicellular specimens, while preserving excellent cell morphology and yielding high sensitivity in the detection of antigens. In a study of 26 CSF specimens with inconclusive cytomorphology, comprising 335 single marker determinations, we were able to discriminate reliably between resting or activated benign cells and a wide range of types of malignant lymphoid cell. A definitive diagnosis was reached in all cases by one tap only. Malignant meningitis was ruled out in ten specimens and proved in 16, including five in which the type of malignancy could only be determined by immunophenotyping. We conclude that immunocytochemistry on PLL-coated slides constitutes the method of choice for immunologic cell differentiation in CSF, which allows equivocal morphologic findings to be clarified.

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