Digoxin for Heart Failure

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Digoxin for Heart Failure

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
digoxinLanoxin, Toloxin

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 is used 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).

Doctors also use digoxin to treat atrial fibrillation, an irregular, erratic heart rhythm that starts in the upper heart chambers (atria).

How Well It Works

Digoxin may help reduce symptoms and associated hospitalization but has not been proven to reduce the chance of death from heart failure.1

Side Effects

Side effects of digoxin include:

  • Confusion, nausea, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances, if the level of digoxin in your blood is too high. 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.

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

References

Citations

  1. Drugs for treatment of chronic heart failure (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(83): 53–56.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
Last Revised October 14, 2010

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