Volume 47, Issue 2 (March 2002)
Postmortem Blood and Vitreous Humor Ethanol Concentrations in a Victim of a Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash
A 20-year-old male was found on the passenger side of a small car after a collision with a semi-trailer truck. Postmortem blood, collected from the chest cavity, and vitreous humor samples were collected following harvesting of the heart and bones. Gas chromatographic analysis revealed a blood ethanol concentration of 0.32 g/dL and a vitreous humor ethanol concentration of 0.09 g/dL. The stomach was intact and full of fluid and food, but its contents were not collected. Possible explanations for the large difference between the two results include diffusion of ethanol from the stomach into the chest cavity, contamination of the blood sample prior to collection, and ingestion of a large quantity of ethanol shortly before death. This case demonstrates the importance of proper quality assurance procedures in collecting postmortem specimens and of collecting a vitreous humor sample for ethanol analysis in postmortem toxicology cases.