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Blood analysis by headspace gas chromatography: Does a deficient sample volume distort ethanol concentration?
Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Biomedicine and Surgery, Clinical Chemistry.
2003 (English)In: Medicine, Science and the Law, ISSN 0025-8024, Vol. 43, no 3, 241-247 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study was prompted by a recent judgment in the Royal Courts of Justice (Gregory v. Director of Public Prosecutions, 2002) in a case of driving a motor vehicle after consuming too much alcohol (Road Traffic Act 1988). An expert witness for the defence alleged that a deficient volume of blood in the tube sent for analysis meant an excess amount of sodium fluoride (NaF) preservative, which would increase the concentration of ethanol, determined by headspace gas chromatography (HS-GC), owing to a salting-out effect. The prosecution did not produce expert evidence to rebut this argument and the drunk driving suspect was acquitted. A small volume of blood and excess sodium fluoride might have increased the concentration of ethanol in the air-space in the tube sent for analysis but this does not mean that the result of the HS-GC analysis would be higher. This follows because prior to analysis an aliquot of blood is removed and diluted (~10 times) with n-propanol as the internal standard. The dilution lowers the concentration of NaF in the blood and for quantitative analysis the ratio of the ethanol to n-propanol response is measured. The use of a ratio also helps to compensate for any salting-out effect of ethanol. Our experiments showed that a deficient volume of blood and excess NaF actually lowered the concentration of ethanol by 2-3% compared with heparinised blood. Seemingly, n-propanol (n-PrOH) a 3-carbon straight chain alcohol is salted out slightly more effectively than the 2-carbon ethanol (EtOH) causing a lower peak area ratio (EtOH/n-PrOH) and a lower apparent concentration of ethanol. In a separate study, we showed that the concentration of ethanol was lowered even more when a 4-carbon alcohol (t-butanol) was used as the internal standard.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. Vol. 43, no 3, 241-247 p.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-25129Local ID: 9562OAI: diva2:245455
Available from: 2009-10-07 Created: 2009-10-07 Last updated: 2012-03-21

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