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
Kevin
44 year old male CC: Palpitations
Why on earth would you risk VF, by giving Adenosine to rule out rhythms.. This is dangerous, and foolish. There might be a slight chance that this is WPW.. You might as well just give him Cardizem, they are both AV nodal blockers... I don't know why the AHA even added this stupid idea..
2014-10-22 13:31:06
Vince DiGiulio
The 360 Degree Heart – Part II
It is standard practice in electrocardiography to label the first 90 degrees counter-clockwise from "zero" that way. When you see a patient with "left axis deviation" you'll see that their measured QRS axis is somewhere between -30 and -90 degrees. Imagine if you saw someone with a mean QRS axis at 5 degrees. Now imagine…
2014-10-21 14:00:37
Bryan
The 360 Degree Heart – Part II
I don't understand why (-)III and aVL are be labeled -60 and -30 degrees instead of 300 and 330 degrees?
2014-10-21 13:43:29
The 360 Degree Heart – Part II | EMS 12 Lead
The 360 Degree Heart – Part I
[…] first post in our “360 Degree Heart” series attempted to visualize how the different frontal plane […]
2014-10-21 12:50:56
Eric Strong
Axis Determination – Part VI
This is a great discussion of axis determination. One minor suggestion: I think it's potentially misleading to refer to an axis between 0 and -30 as "physiologic left axis deviation", since "axis devitation" implies deviation from normal, and axes between 0 and -30 are perfectly normal, (depending on age and body habitus). It may be…
2014-10-05 17:09:00

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