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Forensic Sci Int. 1995 Dec 18;76(2):129-40.

Postmortem degradation of administered ethanol-d6 and production of endogenous ethanol: experimental studies using rats and rabbits.

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  • 1Department of Legal Medicine, Kanazawa University School of Medicine, Japan.


Deuterium-labeled ethanol-d6 was employed to study the metabolism and postmortem change of ethanol in putrefied organ tissues. First, 4 ml/kg body weight of 25% (w/v) solution of ethanol-d6 was administered orally to each of 15 rats. The heart blood and organs were collected 15-90 min after the administration and the ethanol-d6 was analyzed by head space gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The ethanol-d6 concentration in the organ tissues reached its maximum at 15 min after the administration and then gradually declined, showing the same pattern as human ethanol metabolism. Ethanol-d6 (3 ml of the same solution/kg body weight) was injected into the vein of a rabbit's ear (total of 12 rabbits). The rabbit was killed with carbon monoxide 30 min after the administration and the carcass was allowed to stand for 1-4 days at 30 degrees C in a moist chamber. The concentration of ethanol-d6 decreased moderately. Postmortem ethanol and 1-propanol concentrations, in contrast, showed marked increases 2.5 days and more after sacrifice in line with the degree of putrefaction of each organ tissue including skeletal muscle. This suggests the postmortem activation of micro-organism activity. These results indicate that ethanol concentrations in cadaver tissues must be carefully assessed with due consideration of postmortem degradation and production.

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