A retrospective review was conducted of patients with external ventricular drains (EVDs) in situ in order to ascertain the utility of daily cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis in such patients. All laboratory requests for CSF analysis, which were sent to the Microbiology Department, Auckland City Hospital, New Zealand, were reviewed to identify patients with EVDs in situ. The patients' clinical records were reviewed and information was obtained regarding their age, ethnicity, indication for EVD, duration of EVD, CSF analysis results, daily temperatures, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and the presence of other infections. For CSF samples that grew organisms, the patients' notes were reviewed to ascertain whether the organism was a contaminant or was representative of EVD-associated ventriculitis. A total of 454 CSF specimens from 60 patients were reviewed. Of the 56 CSF specimens that were culture-positive, 40 (71 %) were found to reflect clinical infection. Routine CSF analysis identified nine episodes of EVD-associated ventriculitis. Coagulase-negative staphylococci and Staphylococcus epidermidis were the most common isolates and were associated with ventriculitis approximately half of the time. Gram-negative isolates were less frequently isolated, but, when present, were always associated with ventriculitis. This study found that patient temperature and GCS did not allow early prediction of EVD-associated ventriculitis.