The alcohol breath test is reviewed with a focus on gas exchange factors affecting its accuracy. The basis of the alcohol breath test is the assumption that alveolar air reaches the mouth during exhalation with no change in alcohol concentration. Recent investigations have shown that alcohol concentration is altered during its transit to the mouth. The exhaled alcohol concentration is modified by interaction with the mucosa of the pulmonary airways. Exhaled alcohol concentration is not an accurate indicator of alveolar alcohol concentration. Measuring alcohol concentration in the breath is very different process than measuring a blood level from air equilibrated with a blood sample. Airway exchange of alcohol leads to a bias against certain individuals depending on the anatomic and physiologic characteristics. Methodological modifications are proposed to improve the accuracy of the alcohol breath test to become fair to all.
- alcohol breath test
- airway gas exchange
- lung volume
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