Ethanol, Whole Blood

CPT: 80320
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Test Details


  • Alcohol, Blood
  • Blood Alcohol Level
  • Ethyl Alcohol, Blood


Quantitation of alcohol level for medical or legal purposes; test unconscious patients; used to diagnose alcohol intoxication and determine appropriate therapy; detect alcoholism and to monitor ethanol treatment for methanol intoxication. Must be tested as possible cause of coma of unknown etiology since alcohol intoxication may mimic diabetic coma, cerebral trauma, and drug overdose.


Gas chromatography (GC)

Reference Interval

Negative (cutoff = 0.010%)

Additional Information

Ethanol is absorbed rapidly from the GI tract. Peak blood levels usually occur within 40 to 70 minutes on an empty stomach. Food in the stomach can decrease the absorption of alcohol. Ethanol is metabolized by the liver to acetaldehyde. Once peak blood ethanol levels are reached, disappearance is linear; a 70 kg man metabolizes 7−10 g of alcohol/hour (15±5 mg/dL/hour). The urine:blood ratio is considered to be about 1.35:1 but is quite variable. The average saliva:blood ratio is 1:20. Symptoms of intoxication in the presence of low alcohol levels could indicate a serious acute medical problem requiring immediate attention. The half-lives and effectiveness of certain drugs (eg, barbiturates, etc) are increased in the presence of ethanol.

Specimen Requirements


Whole blood or serum


7 mL

Minimum Volume

0.5 mL


Gray-top (sodium fluoride) tube (preferred) or red-top tube. Submit original unopened tube.

Storage Instructions

Room temperature

Stability Requirements



Room temperature

14 days


14 days


14 days

Freeze/thaw cycles

Stable x3

Clinical Information

Special Instructions

Do not prepare venipuncture site with alcohol or remove stopper from tube.


Simpson G. Accuracy and precision of breath-alcohol measurements for a random subject in the postabsorptive state. Clin Chem. 1987 Feb; 33(2 Pt 1):261-268. 3802510


Order Code Order Code Name Order Loinc Result Code Result Code Name UofM Result LOINC
017996 Ethanol, Blood 56478-1 070003 Ethanol % 56478-1
017996 Ethanol, Blood 56478-1 072470 Special Handling N/A

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