U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

A Mechanism Based Forensic Investigation into the Postmortem Redistribution of Morphine

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2018
380 pages
This study examined the postmortem redistribution of morphine, as well as the effect of fentanyl administration on morphine redistribution, with the anticipation that the findings can be used throughout the forensic toxicology and pathology field in the interpretation of autopsy toxicological results.

It has been established that there is a postmortem redistribution (PMR) of drugs and their metabolites that changes drug concentrations in the body after death. Postmortem drug concentrations are also known to vary depending on sampling site and drug characteristics. In addition to advancing knowledge about the PMR redistribution of morphine, this project also profiles an LC-MS/MS method for the analysis of morphine (MOR), morphine-3-glueuronide (M3G, morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G), normorhine (NM), fentanyl (Fent), and norfentanyl (NF). The LC-MS/MS method produces a rapid and sensitive analysis with minimal sample preparation, simple mobile phase composition, and small sample volume. This method was validated. The conclusions of the study are that PMR exists for morphine in the femoral blood and lung tissue across the postmortem interval; however, additional research into the characterization of the redistribution is needed to determine the mechanism of the redistribution. The study also determined that heart blood and femoral blood morphine concentrations are comparable to liver and lung concentrations 8 hours after death. 20 figures, 6 tables, and chapter references

Date Published: April 1, 2018