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Updated: Dec 17 2021


  • Snapshot
    • A 50-year-old man with a past medical history of renal failure and dilated cardiomyopathy presents to the emergency room for nausea, vomiting, and blurry vision. He noticed that previously white objects now look yellow. He was recently started on digoxin. An echocardiogram reveals an atrioventricular block. He is found to be hyperkalemic. He is given an antidote for suspected digoxin toxicity.
  • Introduction
    • Drug
      • a cardiac glycoside derived from the foxglove plant, digitalis purpurea
    • Mechanism of action
      • direct reversible inhibition of Na+/K+-ATPase
        • causing ↑ in intracellular Na+ and ↓ in intracellular K+
      • indirectly inhibits Na+/Ca2+-exchanger
        • the increased intracellular Na+ prevents expulsion of Ca2+ from the cell and increases intracellular Ca2+
      • this results in
        • ↑ free Ca2+ ions
        • ↑ inotropy and contractility
        • ↑ vagal tone
          • ↓ conduction through sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes
          • ↓ heart rate
    • Clinical use
      • heart failure
      • left ventricular dysfunction
      • atrial fibrillation
  • Toxicity
    • Toxicity can be fatal
    • Clinical manifestations
      • gastrointestinal symptoms (most common)
        • nausea
        • vomiting
        • abdominal pain
        • diarrhea
      • vision changes
        • yellow halos around objects
        • blurry vision
      • hyperkalemia
      • arrhythmias
        • atrial ectopy and atrial tachycardia
    • Risk factors for severe toxicity
      • renal failure
        • chronic conditions
          • diabetes causing diabetic nephropathy
          • heart failure causing poor kidney perfusion
        • medications
          • nephrotoxic agents
            • aminoglycosides
          • contrast dye
          • NSAIDs
            • with chronic use or acute overdose
      • hypokalemia
        • K+ competes with digoxin for binding sites and excretion
        • low K+ allows digoxin to bind at K+ binding sites on Na+/K+ ATPase
    • Evaluation
      • serum digoxin concentration
      • serum potassium
      • serial electrocardiograms
    • Treatment
      • digoxin antibodies (anti-digoxin Fab fragments)
      • Mg2+
      • activated charcoal
        • for those who present within 1-2 hours of ingestion
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