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May 8, 1972

Alcohol in Breath, Blood, And Cerebrospinal Fluid

Author Affiliations

Washington U School of Medicine St Louis

JAMA. 1972;220(6):865-866. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200060089030

To the Editor.—  Several studies indicate that the alcohol content of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) roughly parallels that of blood.1,2 It is not known whether cellular and chemical constituents of spinal fluid are affected by alcohol. The present study had two goals, to compare breath, blood, and CSF alcohol concentrations in severely intoxicated alcoholics; and secondly to ascertain whether CSF constituents were abnormal when high levels of alcohol were present.

Methods.—  Ten male alcoholics between the ages of 25 and 50 were admitted to an alcoholism inpatient service with blood alcohol levels, as determined by breath analysis, exceeding 150 mg/100 ml. Blood and lumbar spinal fluid samples were obtained immediately after the determination of breath alcohol. The blood and CSF were tested for alcohol, uric acid, sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and glucose. The CSF additionally was tested for total protein, cells, and specific gravity, and the blood was tested for