Postmortem tissue distribution of acetyl fentanyl, fentanyl and their respective nor-metabolites analyzed by ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.Forensic Sci Int. 2015 Dec; 257:435-441.FS
In the last two years, an epidemic of fatal narcotic overdose cases has occurred in the Tampa area of Florida. Fourteen of these deaths involved fentanyl and/or the new designer drug, acetyl fentanyl. Victim demographics, case histories, toxicology findings and causes and manners of death, as well as, disposition of fentanyl derivatives and their nor-metabolites in postmortem heart blood, peripheral blood, bile, brain, liver, urine and vitreous humor are presented. In the cases involving only acetyl fentanyl (without fentanyl, n=4), the average peripheral blood acetyl fentanyl concentration was 0.467 mg/L (range 0.31 to 0.60 mg/L) and average acetyl norfentanyl concentration was 0.053 mg/L (range 0.002 to 0.086 mg/L). In the cases involving fentanyl (without acetyl fentanyl, n=7), the average peripheral blood fentanyl concentration was 0.012 mg/L (range 0.004 to 0.027 mg/L) and average norfentanyl blood concentration was 0.001 mg/L (range 0.0002 to 0.003 mg/L). In the cases involving both acetyl fentanyl and fentanyl (n=3), the average peripheral blood acetyl fentanyl concentration was 0.008 mg/L (range 0.006 to 0.012 mg/L), the average peripheral blood acetyl norfentanyl concentration was 0.001 mg/L (range 0.001 to 0.002 mg/L), the average peripheral blood fentanyl concentration was 0.018 mg/L (range 0.015 to 0.021mg/L) and the average peripheral blood norfentanyl concentration was 0.002 mg/L (range 0.001 mg/L to 0.003 mg/L). Based on the toxicology results, it is evident that when fentanyl and/or acetyl fentanyl were present, they contributed to the cause of death. A novel ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) method to identify and quantify acetyl fentanyl, acetyl norfentanyl, fentanyl and norfentanyl in postmortem fluids and tissues is also presented.