Case report

International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 115, Issue 3, pp 158-161

First online:

Phosphatidylethanol in post-mortem blood as a marker of previous heavy drinking

  • P. HanssonAffiliated withCounty of Halland Clinical Chemistry and Blood Services, 30185 Halmstad, Sweden e-mail:, Tel.: +46-35-131585, Fax: +46-35-131820
  • , A. VargaAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Neurochemistry, Lund University, Sweden
  • , P. KrantzAffiliated withDepartment of Forensic Medicine, Lund University, Sweden
  • , C. AllingAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Neurochemistry, Lund University, Sweden

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Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is an ethanol-phospholipid adduct, formed via non-oxidative metabolism of ethanol. PEth was measured in femoral blood from 85 consecutive forensic autopsies and was detected in 35 of the cases at concentrations ranging from 0.8 to 22.0 ╬╝mol/l. Of the PEth positive cases, 12 did not have significant levels of ethanol in the blood. Two cases (both suicides involving hanging) had detectable ethanol, but no PEth present in the blood. We conclude that measurements of PEth provide indications of previous alcohol abuse in cases where this may not otherwise be evident.

Keywords Phosphatidylethanol Alcoholism Diagnosis Forensic Autopsy