Xanthochromia is a pale yellow substance in the
cerbebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF is a cushiony fluid
that protects the brain and spine. Xanthochromia is
usually associated with a subarachnoid hemorrhage
(SAH). An SAH is bleeding between the first two layers
that cover the brain. The presence of xanthochromia
can indicate the presence of an SAH if the brain CT
scan is negative (normal) after 12 hours and the person
has symptoms suggested an SAH (e.g., sudden and
severe headache). The yellow color is caused by red
blood cells that that enter the CSF during bleeding. The
cells are destroyed by the body which produces an
oxygen carrying molecule. This is destroyed by
enzymes which degrade it into a yellow-green pigment
known as bilirubin. An enzyme is a type of protein that
helps produce chemical reactions in the body.
Xanthochromia on the left.
Normal cerebrospinal fluid
color on the right.
Xanthochromia is also the occurrence of yellow colored patches in the skin that resemble
a condition known as xanthoma. Whereas xanthoma on the skin takes the form of yellow
plaques or nodules, xanthochromia does not. Plaques and nodules are both areas on or
in the body that appear different from other tissue, with nodules being more swollen. In
this sense of the word, xanthochromia is also known as yellow skin, xanthoderma,
cholesterodoma, xanthochroia, xanthopathy, yellow disease, and yellow skin.
Xanthocromic means pertaining to xanthochromia. Xanthochromia comes from the Greek
word "xanthos" meaning "yellow," and the Greek word "chroma" meaning "color." Put the
two words together and you have "yellow color."