Ethylene glycol test
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Ethylene glycol is a type of alcohol found in many household products. It does not have color or odor. It tastes sweet. Ethylene glycol is poisonous. People sometimes drink ethylene glycol by mistake or on purpose as a substitute for alcohol.
A test can be done to check for ethylene glycol in the blood.
How the test is performed
Blood is most often drawn from a vein. The vein usually used is on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.
The procedure is done in the following way:
- The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic).
- The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
- A needle is gently inserted into the vein.
- The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle.
- The elastic band is removed.
- The needle is removed.
- The puncture site is covered with an adhesive strip to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. Afterward, a bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
How to prepare for the test
No special preparation is needed.
How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel slight pain, or only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the test is performed
This test is ordered when a health care provider thinks someone has been poisoned by ethylene glycol. Drinking ethylene glycol is a medical emergency. Ethylene glycol can damage the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and lungs. The poisoning disturbs the body's chemistry and can lead to condition called metabolic acidosis. In severe cases, shock, organ failure, and death can result.
There should be no ethylene glycol present in the blood.
What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results are a sign of possible ethylene glycol poisoning.
What the risks are
There is very little risk in having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling light-headed
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Pincus MR, Abraham NZ Jr. Toxicology and therapeutic drug monitoring.
- Last reviewed on 1/22/2013
- Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014