Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Breath Testing by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy for Solvent Intoxication Diagnostics

Olli Laakso

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Diagnostic-Therapeutic Department, Division of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine and University of Helsinki, Department of Chemistry, Laboratory of Physical Chemistry .

Technical or contaminated ethanol products are sometimes ingested either accidentally or on purpose. Typical misused products are black-market liquor and automotive products, e.g., windshield washer fluids. In addition to less toxic solvents, these liquids may contain the deadly methanol.

Symptoms of even lethal solvent poisoning are often non-specific at the early stage. The present series of studies was carried out to develop a method for solvent intoxication breath diagnostics to speed up the diagnosis procedure conventionally based on blood tests. Especially in the case of methanol ingestion, the analysis method should be sufficiently sensitive and accurate to determine the presence of even small amounts of methanol from the mixture of ethanol and other less-toxic components. In addition to the studies on the FT-IR method, the Dräger 7110 evidential breath analyzer was examined to determine its ability to reveal a coexisting toxic solvent.

An industrial Fourier transform infrared analyzer was modified for breath testing. The sample cell fittings were widened and the cell size reduced in order to get an alveolar sample directly from a single exhalation. The performance and the feasibility of the Gasmet FT-IR analyzer were tested in clinical settings and in the laboratory. Actual human breath screening studies were carried out with healthy volunteers, inebriated homeless men, emergency room patients and methanol-intoxicated patients. A number of the breath analysis results were compared to blood test results in order to approximate the blood-breath relationship. In the laboratory experiments, the analytical performance of the Gasmet FT-IR analyzer and Dräger 7110 evidential breath analyzer was evaluated by means of artificial samples resembling exhaled breath.

The investigations demonstrated that a successful breath ethanol analysis by Dräger 7110 evidential breath analyzer could exclude any significant methanol intoxication. In contrast, the device did not detect very high levels of acetone, 1-propanol and 2-propanol in simulated breath. The Dräger 7110 evidential breath ethanol analyzer was not equipped to recognize the interfering component.

According to the studies the Gasmet FT-IR analyzer was adequately sensitive, selective and accurate for solvent intoxication diagnostics. In addition to diagnostics, the fast breath solvent analysis proved feasible for controlling the ethanol and methanol concentration during haemodialysis treatment. Because of the simplicity of the sampling and analysis procedure, non-laboratory personnel, such as police officers or social workers, could also operate the analyzer for screening purposes.

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Last updated 25.09.2006

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