Case report on postmortem fentanyl measurement after overdose with more than 67 fentanyl patches

L. E.J. Peeters, I. T. Vleut, G. E. Tan, E. A. Croes, C. Bethlehem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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PURPOSE: Fentanyl is an analgesic that is frequently prescribed, which resulted in non-intentional as well as intentional misuse and deaths. Here, we present a postmortem case of a patient who clearly died of a fentanyl overdose due to an extensive number of fentanyl patches combined with oral intake of fentanyl and cocaine. We aimed to show how postmortem analysis can be used to interpret postmortem fentanyl concentrations in unique cases like the one we present.

CASE DESCRIPTION: A 23-year-old male was found dead in his bedroom with 67 non-prescribed patches of fentanyl on his body. In the room, there also were fentanyl tablets of 100 µg and cocaine powder, which had possibly also been taken by the deceased. To confirm the cause of death, urine and subclavian blood were retrieved to perform a standard postmortem toxicology screening. The toxicological screening revealed the presence of several drugs, including cocaine, fentanyl, lidocaine and paracetamol. Further analysis of the quantitative postmortem values of fentanyl with ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry revealed a fentanyl concentration of 57.9 µg/L. Considering several issues around postmortem drug analyses, this value seemed to be in line with concentrations found in previously reported postmortem cases.

CONCLUSION: We were able to confirm the expected cause of death with an extensive toxicological screening in combination with the circumstantial evidence. We identified fentanyl as most important cause for the fatal outcome in this specific case and simultaneously contributed to the limited availability of knowledge on postmortem fentanyl concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-203
Number of pages5
JournalForensic Toxicology
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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