Digoxin for heart failure
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Digoxin is most often taken once a day as a pill, but it can also be injected into a vein if you are in the hospital.
How It Works
Digoxin slows and strengthens heart contractions, enabling the heart to pump more blood with each beat.
Why It Is Used
Digoxin should be considered for people who have symptoms of heart failure caused by left ventricular systolic dysfunction while they are receiving standard therapy (angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics).1
Doctors also use digoxin to treat atrial fibrillation, an irregular, erratic heart rhythm that starts in the upper heart chambers (atria).
Your doctor will probably prescribe digoxin only if you continue to have symptoms after you are already taking medicines such as a diuretic, an ACE inhibitor, and a beta-blocker.
How Well It Works
Digoxin has been shown to reduce symptoms and associated hospitalization but has not been proven to reduce the chance of death from heart failure.1
Side effects of digoxin include:
- Confusion, nausea, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances if digoxin is taken in high doses. This condition is called digoxin toxicity.
- Slow heart rates (bradycardias) or rapid heart rates (tachycardias), which can occur in people who may be taking too much of the medicine or in people who are also taking a diuretic that may cause potassium or magnesium levels to drop.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
When you start taking digoxin, you initially may need to have frequent blood tests to monitor the level of the medicine. These tests may be done less frequently after you have been taking digoxin for some time.
Lower doses of digoxin are used in people with kidney problems.
Other medicines may affect the level of digoxin in the blood.
Digoxin is not used for people with diastolic heart failure.
Last Updated: August 25, 2008