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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 May;405(12):4107-25. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-6798-0. Epub 2013 Mar 1.

Liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry analysis of postmortem blood samples for targeted toxicological screening.

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  • 1Department of Forensic Genetics and Forensic Toxicology, National Board of Forensic Medicine, Linköping, Sweden.


A liquid chromatography/time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-TOF-MS) method for targeted toxicological screening in human postmortem blood samples from forensic autopsy cases has been developed, validated and compared with a previously used method using gas chromatography with nitrogen-phosphorus detection (GC-NPD). Separation was achieved within 12 min by high-resolution gradient chromatography. Ions were generated in positive and negative electrospray ionization mode and were detected in 2-GHz single mass spectrometry mode, m/z range 50-1,000. Before injection, 0.25 g blood was prepared by protein precipitation with 500 μL of a mixture of acetonitrile and ethanol containing deuterated internal standards. An in-house database comprising 240 drugs and metabolites was built by analysing solutions from certified standards or other documented reference material available. Identification was based on scoring of retention time, accurate mass measurement and isotopic pattern. Validation was performed on spiked blood samples and authentic postmortem blood samples. The thresholds defined as minimum required performance levels were for most compounds in the range from 0.01 to 0.10 μg/g. Typically, a mass error of less than 2 ppm and a precision of area measurements of less than 5 % coefficient of variation were achieved. Positive identification was confirmed at concentrations up to 500 μg/g. Most compounds were determined in positive ionization mode, but for a limited number of compounds (fewer than 4 %) negative ionization was needed and a few early-eluted compounds could not be identified owing to substantial influence of interferences from the matrix and were thus not included in the screening. A robust and valid toxicological screening by LC-TOF-MS for postmortem blood samples, covering 50 % more compounds, and with higher precision and sensitivity than the previously used screening by GC-NPD was achieved.

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