Cardiac glycosides for congenital heart defects

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Cardiac glycosides for congenital heart defects


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How It Works

Cardiac glycosides slow and strengthen the heartbeat by affecting the natural electrical system of the heart and the heart muscle.

Why It Is Used

Cardiac glycosides most often are used to treat severe heart failure and atrial fibrillation that can occur with congenital heart defects. These conditions are more common in older pediatric patients and adult patients who were born with complex defects, such as

It sometimes takes several weeks to figure out the correct dose for this medicine. Cardiac glycosides most often are taken as pills but are also available as an oral liquid or as an injection.

How Well It Works

Cardiac glycosides help:

  • Control rapid irregular heartbeats.
  • Reduce the backup of blood and fluid in the body that can cause swelling in the arms and legs and difficulty breathing.
  • Increase blood flow through the kidneys, which helps get rid of salt (sodium) and relieves swelling in the tissues of the body.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of cardiac glycosides include:

  • Buildup of the medicine in the body. Symptoms include confusion, nausea, loss of appetite, and trouble with vision.
  • Slow (bradycardia) or rapid (tachycardia) heartbeats, especially in people who are also taking diuretics.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Cardiac glycosides are one of the most commonly prescribed medicines to treat heart failure. But there is some controversy over their use. Talk with your doctor if you have questions.

Regular blood tests may be done to monitor levels of cardiac glycosides.

Be sure to tell your child's doctor all of the medicines that your child takes, because some medicines can affect the level of cardiac glycosides and cause problems.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised January 26, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.