Comparison of the quantification of acetaminophen in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid and dried blood spots using high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry

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Acetaminophen (paracetamol, N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) acetamide) is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for the management of pain in children. Quantification of acetaminophen in pre-term and term neonates and small children requires the availability of highly sensitive assays in small volume blood samples.

We developed and validated an LC–MS/MS assay for the quantification of acetaminophen in human plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) and dried blood spots (DBS). Reconstitution in water (DBS only) and addition of a protein precipitation solution containing the deuterated internal standard were the only manual steps. Extracted samples were analyzed on a Kinetex 2.6 μm PFP column using an acetonitrile/formic acid gradient. The analytes were detected in the positive multiple reaction mode. Alternatively, DBS were automatically processed using direct desorption in a sample card and preparation (SCAP) robotic autosampler in combination with online extraction.

The range of reliable response in plasma and CSF was 3.05–20,000 ng/ml (r2 > 0.99) and 27.4–20,000 ng/ml (r2 > 0.99) for DBS (manual extraction and automated direct desorption). Inter-day accuracy was always within 85–115% and inter-day precision for plasma, CSF and manually extracted DBS were less than 15%. Deming regression analysis comparing 167 matching pairs of plasma and DBS samples showed a correlation coefficient of 0.98. Bland Altman analysis indicated a 26.6% positive bias in DBS, most likely reflecting the blood: plasma distribution ratio of acetaminophen.

DBS are a valid matrix for acetaminophen pharmacokinetic studies.

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