Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Does a Toxicology Report Show?

Toxicology reports can be an invaluable source of information following a person's death where there are unanswered questions. This is a forensic toxicology report and the one most people think of when hearing the term "toxicology report." Such reports can also be clinical in nature, as in the type of testing a doctor may request when a patient suffers an overdose. In a nutshell, toxicology reports present an analysis of what was within a person's system at the time samples were taken.

How Is a Toxicology Report Prepared?

Prepared in a lab, toxicology reports are based results of a collection of fluid and tissue samples. A series of tests will be performed to identify specific substances. Preparation will also depend on the purpose of the report. For a forensic toxicology report, for instance, multiple samples will be taken from various organs since substances accumulate at different levels within the body. A typical report will be a summary of several separate tests performed in a supervised setting by trained technicians.

What's Included in the Report?

The primary results of a toxicology report will include a listing of all substances identified in an individual's system. Stomach and liver contents will likely be evaluated and analyzed since these are areas where substances often accumulate or travel when ingested. A typical toxicology report often includes:

  • Detailed measurements of substances 
  • Charts and graphs to allow for quick scanning 
  • Sign-offs from laboratory technicians, doctors and other experts or medical professionals who reviewed the report for accuracy

Who Uses a Toxicology Report?

A typical toxicology report is used by medical examiners or crime investigators to determine an accurate cause of death. Toxicology data can also be used by coaches and team officials to screen athletes for banned substances, which is often a requirement prior to a competition. These reports may also be used by:

  • Employers requesting routine drug testing for potential new hires 
  • Court officials who need to confirm that someone has remained "clean" 
  • Addiction treatment facilities to test patients currently in treatment

If you've seen toxicology reports referred to on television shows or movies, you would assume the results would be produced fairly quickly. In reality, it takes anywhere from a few weeks to several months to gather the information presented within a typical toxicology report to ensure accuracy. Regardless of what information is being requested, toxicology reports are considered to be highly reliable when prepared in accordance with accepted standards.