Methanol test

Definition
This is a test that measures the amount of methanol in the blood.

How the test is performed

Blood is drawn from a vein on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and an elastic band is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins below the band to fill with blood.

A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. During the procedure, the band is removed to restore circulation. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

For an infant or young child, the area is cleansed with antiseptic and punctured with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. Cotton or a bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any continued bleeding.

The blood is then analyzed in a laboratory.

How to prepare for the test
No special preparation is necessary.

For infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age and previous experience. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed
This test is performed to detect the presence of methanol in the body.

Methanol is sometimes drunk mistakenly or intentionally as a substitute for grain alcohol (ethanol). Its presence in blood and body fluids can cause osmolality and electrolyte disturbance leading to toxic effects. Of greatest concern is the fact that methanol is metabolized to formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical that can damage the optic nerve causing Blindness, the liver and the kidneys potentially causing death.

Normal Values

No presence of methanol is normal.

What abnormal results mean

No amount of methanol is normally found in the body. Its presence indicates possible poisoning.

What the risks are


Collection of blood may be associated with:

     
  • excessive bleeding  
  • fainting or feeling lightheaded  
  • hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)  
  • infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)  
  • multiple punctures to locate veins

Special considerations

Oddly enough, the treatment for methanol poisoning is intravenous infusion of grain alcohol (ethanol). Since ethanol is metabolized by the same enzyme in the liver that converts methanol to formaldehyde, the production of formaldehyde is slowed down to a rate at which the body can dispose of it in the urine or through other less common chemical reactions.

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.