In the emergency room evaluation of a patient suspected to have been overcome by a toxic substance, the speed and accuracy with which the diagnosis is established is often of paramount importance. Recent advances in infrared analytical techniques now provide the emergency room physician with a rapid spectroscopic means of identifying many toxic substances. These compounds may be detected in exhaled air, in body fluids, or on the patient's clothing.
Infrared analysis of the patient's expired air, which requires no sample preparation, may be used to identify virtually any organic compound which is slightly volatile at room temperature. These include: (1) carbon monoxide and other heteroatomic gases; (2) halogenated hydrocarbons,1-4 e.g., carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethylene; (3) alcohols,5 e.g., methanol, ethanol, isopropanol; (4) ketones,5,6 e.g., acetone, methylethyl ketone; (5) ethers, esters, and aldehydes,5 e.g., ethyl ether, paraldehyde, dioxane.
Infrared analysis of blood and other body fluids following extraction
ERLEY DS, STEWART RD. Emergency Room Infrared Spectroscopic Analysis. Arch Intern Med. 1963;111(5):656-660. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03620290122017