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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Drug Testing Methods in the Clinical Toxicology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS)

LC/MS/MS has emerged in the clinical laboratory only within the past 10 or 15 years. It has a number of advantages over GC/MS:
  • Sample pre-treatment or extraction is reduced or even eliminated.
  • There is usually no need to derivatize the analyte to make it more volatile and less polar. Polar compounds can easily be analyzed by LC/MS/MS.
  • LC/MS/MS also offers a much higher degree of sensitivity and specificity.
However, GC/MS does have some advantages over LC/MS/MS. The price tag is number one; a GC/MS can cost a fraction of an LC/MS/MS system. The GC/MS also gives more structural information due to the high degree of fragmentation seen in electron impact ionization. Therefore, GC/MS identification of unknown analytes by searching through a spectral database or library is only currently practical with GC/MS.