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