Vitreous humor cocaine and metabolite concentrations: do postmortem specimens reflect blood levels at the time of death?

J Forensic Sci. 1995 Jan;40(1):102-7.


The interpretation of postmortem cocaine concentrations is made in an attempt to estimate drug concentrations present at the time of death and thus infer not only drug presence but drug toxicity. Previous data suggest that changes in postmortem blood cocaine concentrations over time are not predictable and interpretation of cocaine levels should be done with caution. However, these data come from autopsy case series where vital information, such as blood cocaine concentration at the time of death, dose and time since last use, and postmortem interval is often not known. The purpose of this study was to characterize postmortem changes in cocaine and metabolite concentrations relative to premortem concentrations over time at two anatomic sites: peripheral blood and vitreous humor, in a controlled, large animal model. Juvenile swine were given cocaine HCl 10 mg/kg as an IV bolus which resulted in seizures and wide complex tachycardia. Five minutes after cocaine administration, animals were euthanized. At time of death and eight hours postmortem, femoral venous blood and vitreous humor (VH) samples were obtained for quantitation of cocaine, benzoyl ecgonine (BE), and ecgonine methyl ester (EME) by GC/MS. There were no significant increases over time in mean femoral vein concentrations of cocaine or BE. However, a large interanimal variability in direction and magnitude of concentration changes was seen. Mean EME concentrations at the femoral site increased significantly over 8 hours (P < 0.03). Mean VH cocaine concentrations at time of death were significantly lower than corresponding blood concentrations (P < 0.02).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Retinal Barrier / physiology
  • Cocaine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Swine
  • Time Factors
  • Vitreous Body / metabolism*
  • Vitreous Body / pathology


  • Cocaine