Ethanol levels in legally autopsied subjects: Analytical approach and epidemiological relevance in a prospective study in the touristic region of the Canary Islands (Spain)

J Forensic Leg Med. 2017 Nov;52:40-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2017.08.015. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


The aim of this study was to analyze the presence of alcohol in individuals (137) that were subjected to a mandatory medico-legal autopsy in the Institute of Legal Medicine of Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain) during 2015. Blood and vitreous humor samples (232) were analyzed by gas chromatography. 46.0% of the individuals were positive for alcohol, being half of them tourists. Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) was higher in men over 60 years (p = 0.041). 10.2% of the series died in a traffic accident, and victims had the highest proportion of positives to alcohol (64.3%) and the highest BAC (2.56 g/L, p = 0.048). The BAC:VHAC (alcohol in vitreous humor) ratio was higher among victims of traffic crashes (p = 0.036), suggesting a short elapsed interval between the alcohol intake and the fatal accident. The results of this study indicate that ethanol is still heavily involved in non-natural deaths.

Keywords: Blood alcohol concentration; Canary islands; Forensic sciences; Tourist region; Traffic accidents; Vitreous humor alcohol concentration.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Alcohol Content*
  • Cause of Death
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethanol / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spain
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Travel
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Vitreous Body / chemistry*
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Alcohol Content
  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol