Digoxin for Fast Heart Rates

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Digoxin for Fast Heart Rates

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
digoxin Lanoxin

How It Works

Digoxin helps slow the heart rate by reducing the number of electrical impulses that pass through (but do not originate in) the atrioventricular (AV) node into the lower heart chambers (ventricles).

Digoxin can also strengthen ventricular contractions so that the heart is able to pump more blood with each beat.

Why It Is Used

Digoxin slows heart rate and strengthens heart contractions in people who have a fast heart rate. Digoxin can also be used to treat heart failure.

How Well It Works

Digoxin may improve symptoms by slowing the heart rate and strengthening the heart contractions in people who have heart failure. Digoxin is often not very effective for preventing supraventricular tachycardia.1 Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are most often tried first.

Side Effects

High doses may cause digoxin poisoning. Symptoms of digoxin poisoning include:

  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Slow (bradycardia) or rapid (tachycardia) heart rates.

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

What To Think About

  • Regular blood tests may be needed while you are taking digoxin, to monitor levels of the drug to prevent poisoning.
  • Digoxin does not lower blood pressure as do other drugs used to treat fast heart rates.
  • Digoxin does not prevent recurrences of fast heart rates.
  • Beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers work better to control heart rate during exercise.
  • Smaller doses of digoxin must be used in people who have kidney problems.
  • Other medicines may affect the level of digoxin in the blood.

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

References

Citations

  1. Drugs for cardiac arrhythmias (2007). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 5(58): 51–58.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John M. Miller, MD - Electrophysiology
Last Revised November 26, 2010

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