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Q: Is a Breathalyzer test accurate on splenectomized person? ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Is a Breathalyzer test accurate on splenectomized person?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: eddie_eagle-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 03 Mar 2005 14:38 PST
Expires: 02 Apr 2005 14:38 PST
Question ID: 484275
Is a Breathalyzer test accurate if the person's spleen had been
removed 20 years ago? And the person?s recent blood test shows low red
and white blood cell count. and also person was diagnosed with crohn's deasi
Subject: Re: Is a Breathalyzer test accurate on splenectomized person?
Answered By: crabcakes-ga on 03 Mar 2005 19:53 PST
Hello eddie_eagle,

    Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, and not the spleen. The
primary job of the spleen is to recycle red blood cells. Once the
spleen is removed, the liver and the bone marrow take over the
functions the spleen used to perform. So, having a spleen or not will
not affect alcohol metabolism or an alcohol test. However, alcohol
consumption can cause an enlarged spleen!

   ?One of the main functions of the spleen is to bring blood into
contact with lymphocytes. As blood flows slowly through the spleen,
any disease organisms within it are likely to come into contact with
lymphocytes in the spleen tissue. This contact activates the
lymphocytes, which can then attack the foreign invaders. (This process
will be discussed in more detail in later lectures which deal with
immune function.) As blood flows through the spleen, macrophages
remove worn-out red and white blood cells and platelets. These
macrophages produce the pigment bilirubin from the breakdown of
haemoglobin and release it into the blood plasma.? ?Although the
spleen performs many important functions it is not vital to life.
Fortunately so, for of all the abdominal organs, the spleen is the one
most easily and most frequently injured. A severe blow or crushing
injury to the upper abdomen or lower left chest may fracture the ribs
that protect the spleen and cause rupture of the spleen itself. When
the spleen is ruptured, extensive, sometimes massive haemorrhage
occurs. This condition is usually treated by prompt surgical removal
of the spleen (splenectomy) to prevent death due to loss of blood and
shock. (When surgery--either splenectomy or occasionally surgical
repair--is not performed on an injured spleen, the mortality rate is
about 90%.) When the spleen is surgically removed, some of its
functions are taken over by the bone marrow and liver; other functions
are simply absent, and the body manages without them.?

   ?When consumed, alcohol is immediately absorbed into the blood
capillary structure of each successive body tissue and organ it is
directly exposed to. Alcohol's rapid rate of absorption begins in the
soft tissues of the mouth, continues through the esophagus, into the
stomach and finally, the small intestine. Alcohol is somewhat unique
in that as it enters the blood stream, it's chemical structure is not
metabolized but remains unaltered and intact. Consequently, alcohol
becomes a separate and definable component of blood flow. As blood
flows into and through the alveoli (air sacs) in the membranes of the
lungs, carbon dioxide molecules are exchanged for oxygen molecules.
Because alcohol will readily evaporate from a solution and is highly
volatile, alcohol molecules are released with the carbon dioxide
molecules during this gas exchange. Therefore the concentration of
alcohol molecules in the alveolar air of expelled breath is related to
the concentration of the alcohol in the blood. As the alcohol in the
alveolar air is exhaled, it can be detected by a breath alcohol
testing device.?

   Cigarette smoke can cause a falsely elevated breathalyzer test. ?In
all cases, exposing the sensor to any type of smoke or oxygen ion
generator will produce false positive test results and inaccurate
readings. This includes residual smoke in the lungs of a smoker and
ambient smoke that may be present in the immediate area. Do not use an
alcohol breath analyzer near any type of ion generator including
popular air cleaners and central hvac electronic filtration systems. 
Smokers must wait a minimum 8-10 minutes after smoking to use a
breathalyzer to insure that all residual smoke is absent from the

   ?In conclusion, users of electronic alcohol breath analysis devices
should not expect accuracy rates equivalent to precisely controlled
laboratory results using flow meter or gas mass spectrometry
equipment. Unexpected readings are almost always the result of user
error, failure to follow device instructions, contamination of the
sample by smoke or other environmental variable, failure to provide a
sufficient breath sample or contamination of the gas sensor through
misuse, abuse or absence of recommended cleaning maintenance.  Test
results obtained under the many possible variables of field use are
generally assumed to be approximate to actual and not correlated

   Ketones/acetone, from fat metabolism, and not uncommon in
diabetics, can cause a falsely high breathalyzer test. ?a researcher
found that expired ketones in the breath of an untreated diabetic can
contribute to erroneously high breath-alcohol readings. Further, the
acetone on the breath from ketoacidosis will result in an odor of
alcohol. Finally, behavioral patterns of a diabetic whose blood-sugar
level has dropped will include slurred speech, slow gait, impaired
motor control, fumbling hand movements and mental confusion?all
symptomatic of intoxication.?

Gasoline Additives can cause false results on a breathalyzer:
   ?Very high exposure to a gasoline additive, methyl tert-butyl ether
(MTBE), can trigger a false positive reading on some breath-alcohol
analyzers used by law enforcement officers to determine legal
intoxication, according to research conducted by Dr. Buckley and
colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). MTBE is used
to oxygenate gasoline and in some areas is required by law to reduce
emissions. The study compared The Breathalyzer?, which was developed
in the 1950s and uses a visible light detector to determine the
presence of alcohol in the breath, with the newer Alcotest?, which
uses electrochemical and infrared absorption sensors.?

   Unless your red blood cell (RBC) and white blood cell WBC) are very
low, it should not affect your breathalyzer result. According to the
site below, the variance is very small, -2 to + 5%.

   ?Cellular Composition of Blood: Blood contains suspended cells
(e.g. red and white cells) and proteins, and is therefore only a
partial liquid. The partition ratio of 2100 is based on an average
hematocrit (the cell volume of blood) of 47%; hematocrit values range
from 42 to 52 % in males and 37 to 47 % in females. Therefore, a
person with a lower hematocrit will have falsely elevated blood
alcohol based on a breath test; this variability has been estimated to
be relatively small, ranging from - 2 to + 5 %.
Since alcohol freely diffuses into cells but not into cellular
membranes, the subtle point to be aware of is the variability in
volume of the cell debris (i.e. volume of cell membranes after cells
are analyzed), and not the actual hematocrit that is responsible for
the reported variability. Understandably, a higher hematocrit value
represents a higher value of cell debris. The mean value from several
studies show that debris can account for about 16% of the volume of
blood. For example, 0. 119 mg % (in serum) is equivalent to 0.10% of
BAC. Fitzgerald and Hume, Intoxication Test Evidence: Criminal and
Civil, ' 4:26 at 152 (1987).?

Blood Alcohol Results:
0.08?0.10 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or greater means legal
intoxication in most states.

Crohn?s Disease
   I found no literature describing a false positive or elevated
breathalyzer result due to Crohn?s Disease. As with the spleen and
anemia (decreased number of red cells) alcohol can worsen Crohn?s, but
Crohn?s seems to have no effect on a breathalyzer results.

 Can diet control Crohn's disease?
No special diet has been proven effective for preventing or treating
this disease. Some people find their symptoms are made worse by milk,
alcohol, hot spices, or fiber. People are encouraged to follow a
nutritious diet and avoid any foods that seem to worsen symptoms.'s-disease.html

   ?Since drinking alcohol can also have an effect on the body's
ability to digest foods, this can affect people with Crohn's disease
who may already have problems with malabsorption. Alcohol consumption
can also interrupt your sleep patterns and cause insomnia, which can
affect your sense of well-being as well as your physical health.

Can alcohol consumption have an effect on medication?
·Drinking alcohol while taking medication can cause potentially
dangerous reactions. For example, if a person is taking FlagylŪ, an
antibiotic sometimes prescribed in the treatment of Crohn's disease,
alcoholic beverages should not be consumed during therapy and for at
least one day afterward because side effects may occur, including
abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and flushing.?

Reliability of Breathalyzers
   ?As with most machines, error is classifiable into operator and
equipment failure. However, alcohol intoxication theory may be more
fundamentally flawed. The 1:2,000 partition ratio (which has been
assumed true since 1938) and is an integral part of the internal
calibration of all machines may NOT be reliable. There's scientific
research that the true ratio varies from 1:1000 to 1:3000, depending
upon the individual. Just to name a few differences: females absorb,
distribute, and eliminate alcohol 10% faster than males; heavy people
have different tolerances in their stomach linings; and physically fit
people have different tolerances in their lung sacs.  Some judges are
aware of this, and exercise a little leniency, or give-and-take, when
the estimated BAC is a close call. For example, if the state's
standard is .08%, a court might permit and closely consider challenges
for police estimations in the .09% or .10% range. However, it's pretty
much hopeless to raise a defense challenge in a case where the BAC is
.12%, .13%, or higher.?

Additional Reading:
Breath Testing

Breathalyzer Calibration Standards

There you go eddie_eagle! I hope this information is the type you are
seeking. If not, please do not close this question, by rating, until
you have asked for an Answer Clarification. I will respond as soon as
possible to clarify for you.

Regards, Crabcakes

Search Terms

spleen + alcohol metabolism
splenic function
leukocytopenia  + alcohol metabolism
anemia  + alcohol metabolism
Crohn's disease + alcohol metabolism
Crohn's disease + breathalyzer results

Request for Answer Clarification by eddie_eagle-ga on 04 Mar 2005 08:50 PST
Does the lack of spleen in the body cause or has any relation to Low RBCs + WBCs ?

Clarification of Answer by crabcakes-ga on 04 Mar 2005 09:36 PST
Hi eddie_eagle,

  No, red and white cells are mede in the bone marrow. What IS your
WBC and RBC count? Normal for an adult would be 5,000-10,000 for WBC.
This may be reported for example as 5.6, 7.4 etc.  A normal RBC count
for an adult would be 4.0 - 6.0  roughly. Each lab has it's own
reference ranges.

There are numerous causes of a low RBC and a low WBC, ranging from
poor nutrition to more serious conditions. Your doctor should have
explained what is causing yours and how to treat this. A low WBC will
make you susceptible to infections - viral, bacterial and fungal. A
low RBC can make you feel tired and have a difficult time breathing.
Please discuss this with your doctor.

See a chart for CBC normal ranges, which includes RBC and WBC values.

Scroll to the middle of the page to see a chart of conditions
associated with a splenectomy. Having no spleen does make you prone to
infection however, due to a lack of proper antibodies. This page also
explains how this works.

Thank you for your clarification, and I hope this has helped!
SIncerely, Crabcakes
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