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Enhanced Studies of LC/MS/MS Capabilities to Analyze Toxicology Postmortem Samples

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2010
223 pages

This project investigated and developed less time-consuming methods for identifying and quantifying drugs in toxicology postmortem samples by using a liquid chromatograph/mass spectrometer/mass spectrometer (LC/MS/MS) in order to streamline this analysis.


The project was successful in developing new methods for the analysis of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), THC metabolites, and opioids on an LC/MS/MS instrument platform following a simple 1-2 hour sample preparation and extraction step. By implementing these methods, laboratories have the capability of reducing labor time for sample preparation by up to 60 percent over more conventional methods such as solid phase or liquid-liquid extraction methods. The analytical methods developed in this project, however, require further validation prior to implementation into routine casework. The project also found that some drugs and metabolites present in whole blood specimens stored at normal refrigeration temperatures (4 degrees C) do degrade or decompose significantly over time. Having this knowledge is crucial when interpreting the results of testing that occurs months over even years after the sample is collected. Knowing that certain drugs degrade fairly rapidly in storage has significant implications for forensic laboratories with large backlogs or when testing may be delayed for other reasons. The instruments used for the research were the Applied Biosystems Models 2000 and 3200 QTRAP. Both of these instruments are triple quadrupole linear ion trap mass spectrometers. The project also involved the dissemination of the LC/MS/MS methods developed to forensic toxicologists from other forensic laboratories, using six hands-on practical workshops. 37 figures, 33 tables, and appended workshop training materials and presentations

Date Published: March 1, 2010