Original contributions| Volume 10, ISSUE 2, P129-133, March 1992

Accuracy of blood ethanol determination using serum osmolality

      This paper is only available as a PDF. To read, Please Download here.


      A retrospective review of 81 emergency department patients was performed to determine the accuracy of blood ethanol levels (BEL) calculated from serum osmolality. The osmolar gap (measured — calculated serum osmolality) was used to determine the calculated BEL. The mean difference between calculated and measured BEL was 49.2 mg/dL. Calculated BEL overestimated measured BEL in 83% of patients. Adding a correction factor for unmeasured osmoles to the equation for calculated serum osmolality will reduce this error.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Emergency Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Holt S.
        • Stewart I.C.
        • Dixon J.M.
        • Elton R.A.
        • Taylor T.V.
        • Little K.
        Alcohol and the emergency service patient.
        Br Med J. 1980; 281: 638-640
        • Gordis E.
        Alcohol and trauma.
        Alcohol Alert. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 1989; 3: 1-4
        • Glasser L.
        • Sternglanz P.D.
        • Combie J.
        • Robinson A.
        Serum osmolality and its applicability to drug overdose.
        Am J Clin Pathol. 1973; 60: 695-699
        • Lund M.E.
        • Banner W.
        • Finley P.R.
        • Burnham L.
        • Dye J.A.
        Effects of alcohols and selected solvents on serum osmolality measurements.
        J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1983; 20: 115-132
        • Redetzki H.M.
        • Koerner T.A.
        • Hughes J.R.
        • Smith A.G.
        Osmometry in the evaluation of alcohol intoxication.
        Clin Toxicol. 1972; 5: 343-363
        • Champion H.R.
        • Baker S.P.
        • Benner C.
        • et al.
        Alcohol intoxication and serum osmolality.
        Lancet. 1975; 1: 1402-1404
        • Robinson A.G.
        • Loeb J.N.
        Ethanol ingestion commonest cause of elevated plasma osmolality.
        N Engl J Med. 1971; 284: 1253-1255
        • Walker J.A.
        • Schwartzbard A.
        • Krause E.A.
        • Sherman R.A.
        • Eisinger R.P.
        The missing gap: a pitfall in the diagnosis of alcohol intoxication by osmometry.
        Arch Intern Med. 1986; 146: 1843-1844
        • Dorwart W.V.
        • Chalmers L.
        Comparison of methods for calculating serum osmolality from chemical concentrates and the prognostic value of such calculations.
        Clin Chem. 1975; 21: 190-194