The influence of site of collection on postmortem morphine concentrations in heroin overdose victims. Academic Article uri icon


  • When assaying for postmortem morphine concentration, significant site sampling variability exists between central and peripheral sampling sites and even within sampling regions of the body. To study the variation, 76 suspected heroin overdoses were identified. Each had femoral artery (FA) and vein (FV), left and right ventricle and pooled heart blood samples obtained at autopsy. Forty-four tested positive for morphine. Morphine concentrations were determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, with sampling site differences reported as log-transformed ratios and compared by signed rank test. The mean FA to FV ratio for total morphine was 1.2 (range 0-4.5). The ratio for left heart to right heart total morphine was 1.1 (range 0.4-3.2). Left ventricular to FV total morphine ratio was 2.0 (range 0.6-6.9). In these opioid overdose deaths, FA and FV morphine concentrations are usually similar, although up to 4.5-fold differences were noted. Centrally obtained morphine concentrations are on average twice as high compared with peripheral morphine concentrations. Left and right ventricular morphine concentrations were usually similar, although up to 3.2-fold differences were noted (left side higher).

publication date

  • March 2006