The distribution of ethanol in postmortem blood specimens

J Forensic Sci. 1992 Jul;37(4):991-8.


Ethanol was determined by gas chromatography in a variety of tissues and body fluids secured at autopsy in 61 cases. The specimens tested included right and left heart blood, femoral blood, pericardial fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, vitreous humor, urine, stomach contents, and brain. Statistical analysis of the cases revealed no significant differences among the various blood sites tested. However, the variations in blood ethanol concentrations among the various sampling sites within each case were as follows: 40 cases showed differences of less than 25%; 16 cases revealed variability between 25% and 50%, 4 cases had differences exceeding 50%. In one case, satisfactory blood analyses could not be accomplished. The larger variances occurred especially in those instances in which stomach alcohol concentration was 0.50% or greater. In one case, the variability amongst the different blood sites exceeded 400% (femoral blood--0.043%, right atrium--0.070%, root of aorta--0.156%); the brain was 0.050%, and the stomach contents was 1.2%. For all 61 cases, variances in blood alcohol content among the different sampling sites in a single cadaver ranged from 1.8 to 428%.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Blood Specimen Collection*
  • Body Fluids / chemistry
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Ethanol / analysis
  • Ethanol / blood*
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Forensic Medicine / methods*
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Postmortem Changes*


  • Ethanol