Open Access

Challenges in the diagnosis of leptomeningeal dissemination of glioblastoma in a patient with fever and xanthochromic CSF: a case report



Leptomeningeal spread with carcinomatous meningitis is a severe complication of glioblastoma, with a poor prognosis. Diagnosis is challenging, as the sensitivity of classic diagnostic investigations remains low for detecting cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tumor spread and exclusion of infectious causes is mandatory, especially if unusual clinical findings are present.

Case presentation

A 71-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital for recurrent episodes of high fever and xanthochromic meningitis, with subacute onset. Her past medical history was significant for a left temporal glioblastoma, treated with surgical resection and adjuvant chemo- and radiotherapy, with associated systemic immunosuppression secondary to chemotherapy. An extensive workup especially with molecular microbiology testing for exclusion of infectious causes was performed. CSF was analyzed for typical bacterial and viral causes, but also pathogens associated with immunosuppression, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Cryptococcus neoformans. A therapeutic trial of standard antituberculous drugs with repeated lumbar punctures were needed in order to exclude Mycobacterium tuberculosis and to confirm the diagnosis of carcinomatous meningitis by cytopathological examination of the CSF.


The case describes an unusual clinical presentation of a patient with glioblastoma associated leptomeningeal dissemination, as high fever and xanthochromic CSF could raise important diagnostic and therapeutic challenges in the clinical practice. The diagnosis of carcinomatous meningitis requires an extensive workup for exclusion of infectious causes which is important for urgent oncologic treatment.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Medicine, Clinical Medicine, Internal Medicine, other, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Rheumatology