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Detection of endogenous ethanol and other compounds in the breath by gas chromatography with on-column concentration of sample

Analytical Biochemistry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0003-2697(87)90107-2
  • Gas-Liquid Chromatography Techniques
  • Instrumentation
  • Metabolites
  • Drugs
  • Carbohydrates
  • Drug Analysis
  • Drug Metabolism


Abstract A new method is described for collecting and concentrating volatile compounds in the breath, in order to facilitate their assay by gas chromatography. Breath was collected into sealed Mylar bags containing an internal standard (isopropyl alcohol). The sample was pumped through a cooled gas chromatograph column, where the volatile compounds were concentrated by adsorption onto the resin packing (Porapak Q) at 35°C. The column was then heated, and the volatilized sample was separated for assay by flame ionization detection. The assay was highly sensitive for ethanol (detecting at least 4.0 nmol) and linear up to 20 nmol ( r 2 = 0.98). Accuracy and precision were determined by assaying nine replicates of a sample containing 12.0 nmol ethanol; a mean value of 12.18 nmol ethanol was obtained with a coefficient of variation of 10.26%. In a group of normal volunteers, endogenous breath ethanol concentrations ranged from 2.23 to 6.51 nmol/liter. This assay provided a number of advantages over previously described methods: The use of breath collection bags enabled the collection of samples outside the laboratory. The use of an internal standard in the collection bag reduced errors that might have resulted from leakage of the specimen. An on-column concentration of the sample in the gas chromatograph eliminated the need for an additional preconcentration device, such as a cryogenic or adsorptive trapping apparatus.

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