Volume 44, Issue 3 (May 1999)
Postmortem Stability and Interpretation of β2-Agonist Concentrations
This paper describes a series of stability and redistribution studies aimed at understanding the presence and significance of β2-agonists in asthma deaths. Salbutamol and terbutaline were shown to be stable in postmortem blood at 23°C for 1 week, 4°C for 6 months and −20°C for 1 to 2 years. However, fenoterol was shown to degrade at 23°C (83% loss), 4°C (93% loss) and −20°C (66% loss) over the same time. Salbutamol concentrations detected in blood taken at the time of body admission to the mortuary were not significantly different from the concentrations detected in blood taken from the same cases at the time of autopsy (45 h later). This suggests that significant postmortem redistribution of salbutamol is unlikely to occur during this period. Postmortem blood concentrations of at least salbutamol are likely to reflect the concentration of these drugs in the body at the time of death.