False-positive enzymatic alcohol results in perimortem specimens

Sandra C. Bishop-Freeman, Roger L. Bertholf, Robert H. Powers, Lisa C. Mayhew, Ruth E. Winecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Herein, we present 2 cases referred to the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (NC OCME) in which ethanol results reported by different hospital laboratories, using alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)–based assays, were positive, whereas results of headspace gas chromatography testing performed in the NC OCME laboratory were negative. Literature reports suggest that false-positive ethanol measurements from ADH-based assays can occur when a combination of elevated lactate and lactate dehydrogenase (LD) are present in the specimen. The results were reported in perimortem specimens collected from 2 children with unrelated medical conditions. The cases and associated clinical parameters are considered based on the lactate/LD explanation for the false-positive results, to facilitate the recognition of circumstances that can produce erroneous serum ethanol results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-401
Number of pages8
JournalLab Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 8 2020


  • Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)–based assays
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LD)
  • Lactic acid
  • Perimortem specimens
  • Serum ethanol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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