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Comparison of blood-ethanol concentration in deaths attributed to acute alcohol poisoning and chronic alcoholism
Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Biomedicine and Surgery, Clinical Chemistry.
Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Medicine and Care, Clinical Pharmacology.
2003 (English)In: Journal of Forensic Sciences, ISSN 0022-1198, E-ISSN 1556-4029, Vol. 48, no 4, 874-879 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Ethanol concentrations were measured in femoral venous blood in deaths attributed to acute alcohol poisoning (N = 693) or chronic alcoholism (N = 825), according to the forensic pathology report. Among acute alcohol poisonings were 529 men (76%) with mean age 53 years and 164 women (24%) with mean age 53 years. In the chronic alcoholism deaths were 705 men (85%) with mean age 55 years and 120 women (15%) with mean age 57 years. The blood-ethanol concentrations were not related to the person's age (r = -0.17 in acute poisonings and r = -0.09 in chronic alcoholism). The distribution of blood-ethanol concentrations in acute poisoning cases agreed with a normal or Gaussian curve with mean, median, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, and spread of 0.36 g/100 mL, 0.36 g/100 mL, 0.086 g/100 mL, 24% and 0.074 to 0.68 g/100 mL, respectively. The corresponding concentrations of ethanol in chronic alcoholism deaths were not normally distributed and showed a mode between 0.01 and 0.05 g/100 mL and mean, median, and spread of 0.172 g/100 mL, 0.150 g/100 mL, and 0.01 to 0.56 g/100 mL, respectively. The 5th and 95th percentiles for blood-ethanol concentration in acute poisoning deaths were 0.22 and 0.50 g/100 mL, respectively. However, these values are probably conservative estimates of the highest blood-ethanol concentrations before death owing to metabolism of ethanol until the time of death. In 98 chronic alcoholism deaths (12%) there was an elevated concentration of acetone in the blood (> 0.01 g/100 mL), and 50 of these (6%) also had elevated isopropanol (>0.01 g/100 mL). This compares with 28 cases (4%) with elevated blood-acetone in the acute poisoning deaths and 22 (3%) with elevated blood-isopropanol. We offer various explanations for the differences in blood-ethanol and blood-acetone in acute poisoning and alcoholism deaths such as chronic tolerance, alcohol-related organ and tissue damage (cirrhosis, pancreatitis), positional asphyxia or suffocation by inhalation of vomit, exposure to cold coupled with alcohol-induced hypothermia, as well as various metabolic disturbances such as hypoglycemia and ketoacidosis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. Vol. 48, no 4, 874-879 p.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-25134Local ID: 9567OAI: diva2:245460
Available from: 2009-10-07 Created: 2009-10-07 Last updated: 2012-03-21

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