Understanding Digoxin

 Most of us have heard of, or encountered a patient taking Digoxin at some point in our carreers. But, do we understand what it is and how it affects our patient?
 

 Digoxin (Lanoxin), is a Cardiac Glycoside, derived from the foxglove plant, Digitalis. This medication is often seen in the pre-hospital setting, used for the treatment of:

 

  •  Heart Failure (HF) with reduced Systolic Function

 

  • Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Atrial Flutter (A-flutter) associated with Rapid Ventricular Response (RVR)

 

  • Cardiomyopathies

 

  • Often combined with Calcium and Beta Channel Blockers, Angiotensine Receptor Blockers (ARBs) and diuretics

 

 Why does the rate matter?

 Well, as ventricular rates increase, ventricular filling times (Preload) during rest (Diastole) decrease. This can lead to reduced Stroke Volume (SV) and Cardiac Output (CO). This decrease in CO can lead to further complications like Reflex Tachycardia (further increasing oxygen demand), Chest Pain, Dyspnea and other related symptoms.

 

Remember the basics?

 

 

CO = SV x HR
 

 

Digoxin pharmacology:

 

  •  Inhibition of Sodium (Na+) Potassium (K+) ATPase Pump  leads to increased Na+ and decreased K+ intracellular

 

  •  This increased intracellular Na+ influx then triggers Calcium (Ca+) channels to open and increase Ca+ influx, while at the same time, some Na+ is removed from the cell

 

  •  Since Ca+ is responsible for increased contractility (Positive Inotropic effect), there is an increased myocardial contractility leading to greater CO without increased Myocardial Oxygen Consumption (MVO2)

 

  •  Slight Parasympathetic stimulation leads to reduced AV Nodal conduction which leads to increased Preload, improving Stroke Volume (SV) and CO, however, it can lead to decreased Pulse Rate since there is a decrease of impulses entering the ventricles

 

***Digoxin has a prolonged Half-life, between 35-40 hours average, which in the patient with decreased kidney function or metabolism, increases the Bioavailability (the amount of medication available in the bloodstream for use) which will lead to cardiac toxicity.***

***Digoxin also has a narrow Therapeutic Index (the gap between good treatment and toxic effect) which leads to the cardiac toxicity.***

 

 

Digoxin and ECG changes:
 

 

 

  •  ST segment “scooping”, similar to an ice cream scoop shape, with a rounded negative ST segment. This is also know as "Reverse Check" or "Reverse Tick"

 

  • Atrial arrhythmias like AF with slow RVR

 

  • Junctional, Accelerated Junctional and Junctional Tachycardias

 

  •  Decreased AV Nodal conduction can lead to AV blocks and Ventricular Escape Beats since the above conduction is delayed

 

  •  Bi-directional Ventricular Tachycardia (BVT) which is seen as alternating ventricular beats,  e.g.  LBBB pattern beat followed by a RBBB pattern beat which continue alternating.

3 Comments

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EMS 12-Lead

Cardiac Rhythm Analysis, 12-Lead ECG Interpretation, Resuscitation
Comments
Jewel
53 Year Old Male: Severe Leg Pain
Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for…
2014-08-31 17:51:28
David Baumrind
All that wiggles isn’t Wellens’
@Gary, by all means, nitpick all you like. I agree with your assessment, and the post has been modified. Thank you for the feedback!
2014-08-30 17:28:16
Gary Huntress
All that wiggles isn’t Wellens’
Not to nitpick but is this really a "slightly leftward axis"? I and AVF are both positive. I put it at about +20 degrees, not leftward.
2014-08-30 11:49:35
Handsome Robb
87 YOM COMPLAINING OF CHEST DISCOMFORT AND DYSPNEA
CHF. 12-lead shows a sinus Tachycardia in the 120s with PACs, besides the anterior leads there's diffuse ST depression, the STE in the anterior leads can be explained by the LBBB, axis is good as well. I wish they posted the EtCO2 waveform so we could see but I'm assuming it's non-obstructive. The elevated EtCO2…
2014-08-30 08:08:22
Christopher Watford
“Bad heartburn” – 82 y.o. female without chest pain.
Brooks, Firstly, thank you for the warm welcome to the club. Secondly, the Glasgow algorithm's only published sens/spec for AMI is 51.6%/97.6% respectively (Tuscon STEMI Database). I've not been able to find any other publications. The GE Marquette 12SL algorithm has been widely studied, but is much older, and ranges in sensitivity from 48% to…
2014-08-29 16:50:14

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