What ‘Blood Alcohol’ Means

A quick way to estimate hemoglobin is to use the very thin ‘crit’ tube, stick the patient’s finger, fill the tube almost to the top with blood, seal the bottom and tape the tube upright to the bedpost.

First of all, in a patient who has been drinking, we could smell alcohol from the blood.  Strong.  Leaving the upright crit tube for awhile gave us hemoglobin information, the hematocrit,  and something else.  Red cells packed on the bottom, next came an amber layer of plasma and then, with a sharp line of demarcation, the layer of alcohol.  That’s the blood alcohol reading.

A blood alcohol of .385 is fatal, absolutely and without a doubt.  We had a 36 year old man in ICU one night with a blood alcohol of .370 and he was frantic.  He had a catheter in with his urine draining into a bag tied to the bedframe and he tried to drink the urine.  We tied him to the bed.

In someone who drinks every day, the blood alcohol remains high.  It does not vanish during the night when sleeping.  It stockpiles itself.