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Journal Article


Winek CL, Esposito FM. Leg. Med. 1985; 34-61.


(Copyright © 1985, Butterworth Legal Publishers)






As a result of extensive alcohol research conducted on both humans and animals, it is possible to predict a BAC, given pertinent data. In addition, it is possible to estimate from a given BAC the quantity of alcohol consumed. Caution must be used in these predictions, for certain factors will affect the final estimation. Absorption of alcohol is influenced by gastrointestinal contents and motility, and also the composition and quantity of the alcoholic beverage. The vascularity of tissues influences the distribution of alcohol, and their water content will determine the amount of alcohol present after equilibrium. Elimination of alcohol begins immediately after absorption. The elimination rate varies for individuals but falls between .015 percent to .020 percent per hour, with an average of .018 percent per hour. In addition to these factors, a BAC will depend on the subject's weight, percentage of alcohol in the beverage, and the rate of drinking. The principal effect of alcohol in the body is on the central nervous system. Its depressant effect consists of impairment to sensory, motor and learned functions. When combined with some other drugs, a more intoxicated state occurs. Although tolerance to alcohol at low blood concentrations is possible, the tolerance most noted is a learned tolerance among chronic drinkers. contamination of antemortem blood samples collected for alcohol analysis is minimal when swabbing with an ethanolic antiseptic is performed with routine clinical technique; sloppy swabbing has been shown to increase the BAC determination significantly. The alcoholic content of blood used for transfusion does not contribute significantly to the BAC of the recipient, since extensive dilution occurs; nor does the alcohol present in injectable medication contribute significantly. Although many factors may alter the concentration of alcohol present in autopsy specimens, postmortem synthesis of alcohol receives the most attention. The microorganisms that cause postmortem ethanol production can be inhibited by adding a preservative to the samples and storing them under refrigeration. Should putrefaction be present, it is recommended that, in addition to blood, several different specimens be collected and analyzed for the presence of alcohol. Antemortem blood samples containing ethanol, collected using sterile tubes and techniques, may be analyzed up to 14 days later with reasonable certainty that the ethanol level reflects that which was present at the time of collection.

Language: en


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