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Volume 13, Issue 3, Pages 213-226

A fast screening method for tricyclic antidepressants and their urinary metabolites by FAB-tandem mass spectrometry

M. Schäfer,1 H. Budzikiewicz,1 H. Brzezinka,2 and M. Schifferdecker3

1Institut für Organische Chemie der Universität zu Köln, Greinstrasse 4, D-50939 Köln, Germany
2Institut für Rechtsmedizin der Unversität Bonn, Stiftsplatz 12, D-53111 Bonn, Germany
3Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie der Universität zu Köln, Joseph-Stelzmann-Strasse 9, D-50924 Köln, Germany

Copyright © 1997 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A screening method for tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and their urinary metabolites by FAB tandem mass spectrometry (FAB MS/MS) is presented. The collision induced dissociation (CID) behavior of pure dibenzocycloheptadienes (amitriptyline 1, nortriptyline 2), dibenzoxepines (doxepine 3, dosulepine 4), dibenzazepines (imipramine 5, desipramine 6, trimipramine 7) and the iminostilbene derivative opipramol 8 is described and used for the specific determination of these tricyclics by MS/MS.

For the screening procedure a methanolic extract of the urine sample is passed through a XAD-2 column and the eluate is examined without further purification after evaporation of the solvent. Identification of the TCA is achieved by constant neutral loss (CNL) scans for 173 u, 195 u and 193 u and subsequent daughter ion spectra of the molecular ions [M+H]+. Glucuronide conjugate metabolites of the tricyclic antidepressants 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 could be identified by CNL-scans (176 u) and the assignments were confirmed by daughter ion mass spectra. A urine sample of a fatal 1, 2, 8 overdose and samples of three patients under therapeutic dosage with 1, 3 or 6 are presented as examples for application.