Document Detail

Distribution of butalbital in postmortem tissues and fluids from non-overdose cases.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  12731655     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
During the investigation of fatal aviation accidents, postmortem samples from the pilots/co-pilots are submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) for toxicological analysis. Although therapeutic levels for most drugs are typically reported in the scientific literature for blood and plasma, blood specimens are received in only approximately 70% of our cases. Therefore, it is imperative for an accident investigator and forensic toxicologist to be able to estimate drug concentrations in an aviation accident victim's blood from available tissue drug concentrations. This is exemplified by a recent aviation fatality in which butalbital was identified in the muscle tissue of a pilot. In this case, no blood was available for analysis, but investigators needed to know the approximate butalbital concentration expected in the victim's blood. Certain side effects of butalbital, such as drowsiness, sedation, dizziness, and a feeling of intoxication, could affect pilot performance and become a significant factor in an aviation accident. Thus, our laboratory determined the distribution of butalbital in various postmortem tissues and fluids. The distribution coefficients for butalbital, expressed as specimen/blood ratios, were found to be as follows: 0.66 +/- 0.09 (muscle, n = 4), 0.98 +/- 0.09 (kidney, n = 4), 0.87 +/- 0.06 (lung, n = 4), 0.75 +/- 0.03 (spleen, n = 4), 0.96 +/- 0.07 (brain, n = 3), 2.22 +/- 0.04 (liver, n = 4), and 0.91 +/- 0.17 (heart, n = 2). The results obtained from our limited number of cases suggest that muscle, kidney, lung, spleen, brain, liver, and heart could be used, in a cautious and conservative fashion, to estimate butalbital blood concentrations.
Russell J Lewis; Robert D Johnson; Travis L Southern; Dennis V Canfield
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Comparative Study; Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of analytical toxicology     Volume:  27     ISSN:  0146-4760     ISO Abbreviation:  J Anal Toxicol     Publication Date:  2003 Apr 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2003-05-06     Completed Date:  2004-02-02     Revised Date:  2006-11-15    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7705085     Medline TA:  J Anal Toxicol     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  145-8     Citation Subset:  IM    
Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, Federal Aviation Administration, Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, AAM-610, PO Box 25082, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73125, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Accidents, Aviation
Analgesics / adverse effects,  blood,  pharmacokinetics*
Barbiturates / adverse effects,  blood,  pharmacokinetics*
Forensic Medicine
Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
Postmortem Changes
Specimen Handling
Tissue Distribution
Reg. No./Substance:
0/Analgesics; 0/Barbiturates; 77-26-9/butalbital

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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