- The measurement of cholinesterase activity in human serum is an important investigation, especially in patients suspected of poisoning with organophosphate insecticides, or those experiencing prolonged paralysis following treatment with the short acting muscle relaxant succinylcholine. Appropriate clinical management of affected individuals can only be instituted if enzyme activity is measured using a method capable of clear interpretation and phenotypic ascription of cholinesterase, ascertained by use of selected enzyme inhibitors, is reliable. This review considers factors which lead to significant cholinesterase abnormalities and advises on the techniques most appropriate to their investigation. It is concluded that no one method is suitable both for measurement of activity and determination of genotype. The use of propionyl thiocholine is recommended for the first procedure and benzoyl choline for the latter. Those laboratories in which a request for the assessment of cholinesterase status is an unusual event should make greater use of assistance from colleagues whose experience with the problem is greater.