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Saliva Alcohol Reagent Strips in Altered Response Protocols

  • Keith G. Harpe (a1), Donald M. Yealy (a2), Michael B. Heller (a2), Richard M. Kaplan (a2) and Fred W. Fochtman (a3)...


The prehospital care provider has been limited in his or her initial assessment of patients due to having available only a limited number of simple diagnostic tests. There has not been an accurate field test available to rule out significant ethanol intoxication. We designed a prospective trial for the prehospital setting to test the utility of a rapid, semi-quantitative, saliva alcohol reagent strip for patients with an altered level of consciousness. We found that these strips were useful in ruling out significant ethanol intoxication as a cause of an altered level of consciousness with a sensitivity of 85.7% and a specificity of 94.4%, but were not useful in accurately predicting the blood alcohol level. We conclude that these reagent strips are useful in the prehospital setting to provide information about patients with an altered level of consciousness.


Corresponding author

Darnall Army Community, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, Ft. Hood, TX 76544, USA


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Presented at the Scientific Assembly of the National Association of EMS Physicians, San Francisco, June 1989.



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1. Jones, AW: Distribution of ethanol between saliva and blood in man. Clin Exn Pharm Phys 1979; 6:53–9.
2. McColl, KEL, Whiting, B, Moore, MR, Goldberg, A: Correlation of ethanol concentrations in blood and saliva. Clin Sci 1979; 56:283–6.
3. Jones, AW: Inter- and Intra-individual variations in the saliva/blood alcohol ratio during ethanol metabolism in man. Clin Chem 1979; 25:1394–8.
4. Backer, RC, Pisano, RV, Sopher, IM: The comparison of alcohol concentrations in postmortem fluids and tissues. J Forensic Sci 1980; 25:327–31.
5. Smalldon, KW, Brown, GA: The stability of ethanol in stored blood, Part II. The mechanism of ethanol oxidation. Analv Chimica Acta 1973; 66:285–90.


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