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.

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Comments
Anthony Garlick
68 y.o. male with weakness: “Treat the monitor, not the patient?”
So my working clinical impression would be hypoglycaemia with possibly dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Reasoning for this is that the patient frusemide and metolazone are both diuretics are known to cause these problems. ECG does have a wide and bazar QRS complex with ? ? AV disassociation plus what looks to be peaked T…
2014-09-30 22:22:35
jason
68 y.o. male with weakness: “Treat the monitor, not the patient?”
I'm with Dave Eastman on this. I think it's hyper K+ and will treat as such. But I'll do that will I head to the PCI capable facility. Do I think there is an underlying STEMI? Nope, I sure don't. Do I know the computer has a hard time with false positives? yup. Am I…
2014-09-28 22:15:54
Rodrigo Furtado
68 y.o. male with weakness: “Treat the monitor, not the patient?”
I did forget, is it possible pacer is placed??? sorry that went right over my head.
2014-09-28 20:38:19
Rodrigo Furtado
68 y.o. male with weakness: “Treat the monitor, not the patient?”
1) Change to every lead? STEMI is questionable on my Dx # 6 on a list of 5. IF my recall on this, IF a Global presentation of ST change with QRS Change: a) STEMI is extremely unlikely or NOT STEMI b) start looking for mechanical problems ( tamponade) or chemical/ electrical (electrolyte imbalance or…
2014-09-28 20:34:36
Dave Eastman
68 y.o. male with weakness: “Treat the monitor, not the patient?”
My first thought was hyperkalemia. If the pt is stable, begin with Ca++ & bicarb. Consider albuterol. Serial 12-leads. Start toward PCI capable facility. If it is hyperkalemia, initial treatment should begin to improve pt's condition and there is no harm caused from the increased transport time. If there is an underlying MI as well,…
2014-09-28 18:05:12

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