Pathology Associates Of Lexington, P.A.
Pathology Associates Of Lexington, P.A.
Pathology Associates Of Lexington, P.A.
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        Blood Alcohol

Serum ethanol levels vary from 1.09 - 1.18 times greater than whole blood alcohol levels (9-18% or an average of 1/7th greater). This is due to the removal of the red and white blood cells and & leaving of the watery serum which has that increased of a proportion of alcohol concentration.

We do ethanol-specific serum ethanol levels, and these are the results reported as "blood" alcohol levels. This method is not known to have false positives due to some other cross-reacting agent.

We’ve asked the hospital attorney for an opinion (in 1990s) as to whether we should specify the nature of the result reported relative to legal intoxication levels. The opinion suggested that we continue to do as we have been doing, leaving it up to the legal system to emphasize differences if these are relevant.

I’m of the impression that the state law specifies "blood alcohol" levels as a lay person, non-scientific term for what we actually measure. I think that virtually everyone measures serum alcohol levels and that that was probably what the law intended to specify, using a less precise, non-scientific term.

The practical difference in court would be approximately 0.01% which may keep someone with a "blood" (serum) alcohol level of .10 - .11% dodge from conviction as this would precisely reflect a whole blood alcohol of approximately 0.09%, a result less than the legal limit. Persons tested by our (serum) alcohol to be 0.12% or greater would be above the legal limit whether or not the term serum or blood was applied. I’m not sure in reality how many convictions are obtained at the break point of .10 - .11%.

[The S. C. legal limit as of 2006 is now 0.08%.]

Dr. Carter's 24 Feb. memo to Dr. Tommy Gibbons, LMC ED

(posted 25 February 2003)

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