Performance evaluation of three liquid chromatography mass spectrometry methods for broad spectrum drug screening

Kara L. Lynch, Autumn R. Breaud, Hilde Vandenberghe, Alan H.B. Wu, William Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and tandem LC-MS (LC-MS/MS) are increasingly used in toxicology laboratories as a complementary method to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-ultraviolet detection (LC-UV) for comprehensive drug screening (CDS). This study was designed to characterize the sensitivity and specificity of three LC-MS(/MS) vendor-supplied methods for targeted CDS and identify the current limitations associated with the use of these technologies. Methods: Five methods for broad spectrum CDS, including LC-UV (REMEDi), full scan GC-MS, LC-MS (ZQ™-Mass Detector with MassLynx™-software), LC-QTRAP-MS/MS (3200-QTRAP® with Cliquid®-software) and LC-LIT-MS/MS (LXQ™ Linear Ion Trap with ToxID™-software) were evaluated based on their ability to detect drugs in 48 patient urine samples. Results: The tandem MS methods identified 15% more drugs than the single stage MS or LC-UV methods. Use of two broad spectrum screening methods identified more drugs than any single system alone. False negatives and false positives generated by the LC-MS(/MS) software programs were identified upon manual review of the raw data. Conclusions: The LC-MS/MS methods detected a broader menu of drugs; however, it is essential to establish manual data review criteria for all LC-MS(/MS) drug screening methods. Use of an EI-GC-MS and ESI-LC-MS/MS combination for targeted CDS may be optimal due to the complementary nature of the chromatographic and ionization techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1474-1481
Number of pages8
JournalClinica Chimica Acta
Issue number19-20
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Comprehensive drug screening
  • General unknown screening
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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