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01.03.2012 | Original Article | Ausgabe 2/2012

International Journal of Legal Medicine 2/2012

Degradation and elimination of succinylcholine and succinylmonocholine and definition of their respective detection windows in blood and urine for forensic purposes

International Journal of Legal Medicine > Ausgabe 2/2012
Uta Kuepper, Frank Herbstreit, Jürgen Peters, Burkhard Madea, Frank Musshoff
Wichtige Hinweise
Uta Kuepper and Frank Herbstreit share equal authorship.


The muscle relaxant succinylcholine (SUX) evokes respiratory paralysis, and numerous cases of fatal SUX intoxication have been reported. Detection of SUX and its metabolite succinylmonocholine (SMC) is difficult, both due to their (bis-) quaternary structure and the extreme hydrolytic susceptibility of SUX, and data on degradation kinetics of SUX and SMC is scarce. The present study investigates the in vivo and in vitro degradation as well as elimination of both target analytes using authentic blood and urine samples from anesthetized patients. With a special focus on the urinary data and stabilization issues, this work intends to considerably enhance the forensic knowledge concerning SUX intoxications and to present the reader with practical analytical strategies to cope with such difficult cases. Eighteen subjects undergoing surgery and requiring arterial as well as bladder catheters were included in this study. Muscle relaxation was initialized with a bolus injection of 80–100 mg SUX. Blood and urine samples were either collected using paraoxonized (n = 15) or non-modified (n = 3) tubes. Sampling was performed within 6 h after SUX application following a pre-assigned schedule. Samples were processed according to a validated isotope dilution HPLC–MS/MS method using ion-pair solid-phase extraction. In blood, SUX was usually detectable for up to 10 min post-injection, while detection of SMC was possible over the whole observation period of 6 h. Effectiveness of organophosphate stabilization was proven for both analytes and is therefore recommended. In freshly secreted urine, detection windows of a minimum of 2 h as opposed to 6 h have been determined for SUX versus SMC, respectively. Considering SMC plasma kinetics, detection of the metabolite in blood and freshly secreted urine appears to be possible over a period of at least 8–24 h. Paraoxon did not enhance the stability of either target substance in urine, stabilization of urine samples is nonetheless recommended. In summary, SMC was proven to be the most promising target analyte in SUX analysis, with urine being the proposed matrix of choice for forensic applications. Furthermore, our work defines meaningful detection windows for SUX and SMC in blood and urine as routine matrices and presents sampling recommendations as well as guideline values for forensic toxicological analysis.

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