"ORLANDO, FL â€” After more than 200 years, medicine is still figuring out how to use digoxin in patients with heart failure. A new retrospective analysis adds to the debate over whether the drug, also used in atrial fibrillation, offers clinical be"...
In general, the adverse reactions of digoxin are dose-dependent and occur at doses higher than those needed to achieve a therapeutic effect. Hence, adverse reactions are less common when digoxin is used within the recommended dose range or therapeutic serum concentration range and when there is careful attention to concurrent medications and conditions.
Because some patients may be par ticularly susceptible to side effects with digoxin, the dosage of the drug should always be selected carefully and adjust- ed as the clinical condition of the patient warrants. In the past, when high doses of digoxin were used and little attention was paid to clinical status or concurrent medications, adverse reactions to digoxin were more frequent and severe. Cardiac adverse reactions accounted for about one-half, gastrointestinal disturbances for about one-fourth, and CNS and other toxicity for about one-four th of these adverse reactions. However, available evidence suggests that the incidence and severity of digoxin toxicit y has decreased substantially in recent years. In recent controlled clinical trials, in patients with predominantly mild to moderate heart failure, the incidence of adverse experiences was comparable in patients taking digoxin and in those taking placebo. In a large mortality trial, the incidence of hospitalization for suspected digoxin toxicity was 2% in patients taking digoxin compared to 0.9% in patients taking placebo. In this trial, the most common manifestations of digoxin toxicity included gastrointestinal and cardiac disturbances; CNS manifestations were less common.
Adults: Cardiac: Therapeutic doses of digoxin may cause heart block in patients with pre-existing sinoatrial or AV conduction disorders; heart block can be avoided by adjusting the dose of digoxin. Prophylactic use of a cardiac pacemaker may be considered if the risk of heart block is considered unacceptable. High doses of digoxin may produce a variet y of rhy thm disturbances, such as first-degree, second-degree (Wenckebach), or third-degree heart block (including asystole); atrial tachycardia with block; AV dissociation; accelerated junctional (nodal) rhy thm; unifocal or multiform ventricular premature contractions (especially bigeminy or trigeminy); ventricular tachycardia; and ventricular fibrillation. Digoxin produces PR prolongation and ST segment depression which should not by themselves be considered digoxin toxicity. Cardiac toxicity can also occur at therapeutic doses in patients who have conditions which may alter their sensitivity to digoxin (see WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS).
Gastrointestinal: Digoxin may cause anorexia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Rarely, the use of digoxin has been associated with abdominal pain, intestinal ischemia, and hemorrhagic necrosis of the intestines.
CNS: Digoxin can produce visual disturbances (blurred or yellow vision), headache, weakness, dizziness, apathy, confusion and mental disturbances (such as anxiety, depression, delirium, and hallucination).
The following table summarizes the incidence of those adverse experiences listed above for patients treated with digoxin tablets or placebo from two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled withdrawal trials. Patients in these trials were also receiving diuretics with or without angiotensin-conver ting enzyme inhibitors. These patients have been stable on digoxin, and were randomized to digoxin or placebo. The results shown in Table 4 reflect the experience in patients following dosage titration with the use of serum digoxin concentrations and careful follow-up. These adverse experiences are consistent with results from a large, placebo-controlled mor talit y trial (DIG trial) wherein over half the patients were not receiving digoxin prior to enrollment.
Table 4: Adverse Experiences In Two Parallel, Double-Blind,
Placebo-Controlled Withdrawal Trials (Number of Patients Reporting)
|Digoxin Patients||Placebo Patients|
Infants and Children: The side effects of digoxin in infants and children differ from those seen in adults in several respects. Although digoxin may produce anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and CNS disturbances in young patients, these are rarely the initial symptoms of overdosage. Rather, the earliest and most frequent manifestation of excessive dosing with digoxin in infants and children is the appearance of cardiac arrhy thmias, including sinus bradycardia. In children, the use of digoxin may produce any arrhythmia. The most common are conduction disturbances or supraventricular tachyarrhythmias, such as atrial tachycardia (with or without block) and junctional (nodal) tachycardia. Ventricular arrhythmias are less common. Sinus bradycardia may be a sign of impending digoxin intoxication, especially in infants, even in the absence of first degree heart block. Any arrhy thmia or alteration in cardiac conduction that develops in a child taking digoxin should be assumed to be caused by digoxin, until fur ther evaluation proves other wise.
Read the Digitek (digoxin tablets) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects
Potassium-depleting diuretics are a major contributing factor to digitalis toxicity. Calcium, par ticularly if administered rapidly by the intravenous route, may produce serious arrhythmias in digitalized patients. Quinidine, verapamil, amiodarone, propafenone, indomethacin, itraconazole, alprazolam, and spironolactone raise the serum digoxin concentration due to a reduction in clearance and/or in volume of distribution of the drug, with the implication that digitalis intoxication may result. Erythromycin and clarithromycin (and possibly other macrolide antibiotics) and tetracycline may increase digoxin absorption in patients who inactivate digoxin by bacterial metabolism in the lower intestine, so that digitalis intoxication may result (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Absorption). Propantheline and diphenoxylate, by decreasing gut motility, may increase digoxin absorption. Antacids, kaolin-pectin, sulfasalazine, neomycin, cholestyramine, certain anticancer drugs, and metoclopramide may interfere with intestinal digoxin absorption, resulting in unexpectedly low serum concentrations. Rifampin may decrease serum digoxin concentration, especially in patients with renal dysfunction, by increasing the non-renal clearance of digoxin. There have been inconsistent repor ts regarding the effects of other drugs [e.g., quinine, penicillamine] on serum digoxin concentration. Thyroid administration to a digitalized, hypothyroid patient may increase the dose requirement of digoxin. Concomitant use of digoxin and sympathomimetics increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. Succinylcholine may cause a sudden extrusion of potassium from muscle cells, and may thereby cause arrhythmias in digitalized patients. Although beta-adrenergic blockers or calcium channel blockers and digoxin may be useful in combination to control atrial fibrillation, their additive effects on AV node conduction can result in advanced or complete heart block.
Due to the considerable variability of these interactions, the dosage of digoxin should be individualized when patients receive these medications concurrently. Furthermore, caution should be exercised when combining digoxin with any drug that may cause a significant deterioration in renal function, since a decline in glomerular filtration or tubular secretion may impair the excretion of digoxin.
Drug/Laborator y Test Interactions: The use of therapeutic doses of digoxin may cause prolongation of the PR interval and depression of the ST segment on the electrocardiogram. Digoxin may produce false positive ST-T changes on the electrocardiogram during exercise testing. These electrophysiologic effects reflect an expected effect of the drug and are not indicative of toxicity.This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Last reviewed on RxList: 2/23/2017
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