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Orv Hetil. 2006 Oct 15;147(41):1993-6.

[Do we use digitalis properly in the management of elderly patients suffering from the signs of chronic heart failure?].

[Article in Hungarian]

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Békés Megyei Képviselotestület Pándy Kálmán Kórház, II. Belgyógyászat - Kardiológia, Gyula.



The indications of digoxin therapy has been significantly narrowed and also the effective target therapeutic blood level has been decreased (0.9 micromol/L) compared to the previously desired one.


In this retrospective trial the data of 60 consecutive patients over 65 years (25 male, 35 female, mean age 77.3 +/- 5.0 y), hospitalized between 01. 01. 2002 and 31. 12. 2003 with a diagnosis of chronic heart failure and elevated (> 1.2 microg/I) serum level of digoxin, were analyzed.


Beside the analysis of the age, sex, serum level of digoxin and potassium, creatinine clearance value, symptoms and ECG-signs of digitalis intoxication, presence of atrial fibrillation, concomitant diseases and left ventricular ejection fraction value, the reasonability of digitalis treatment and therapy applied at the time of discharge (considering actual treatment guidelines) were also reviewed.


At the admission mean serum level of digoxin was 2.1 +/- 0.9 microg/l. 20 patient's value (33.3%) was found above 2.2 microg/l. Symptoms characteristic for digitalis intoxication were observed in 28 patients. On the ECG performed at admission signs of digitalis effect/overdose were observed in 54 cases ("bigemin" ventricular extrasystoles, bradycardia, characteristic down-sloping ST-depressions). The mean left ventricular ejection fraction of the patients (51.5 +/- 12.7%) did not suggest to a significant left ventricular systolic dysfunction. For the elevated serum level of digoxin the impaired renal function (mean creatinine clearance 42.9 +/- 21.3 mL/min) was responsible in most cases. In patients with the highest serum level of digoxin (n = 20, 3.2 +/- 0.7 microg/L) the creatinine clearance was even lower, 30.4 +/- 13.7 mL/min. During hospital treatment the administration of digitalis was found to be unnecessary and thus terminated in 44 patients. At the discharge only 16 patients were receiving digitalis, 14 of them digoxin and 2 patients digitoxin.


The authors emphasize, that in case of elderly patients the indication and control of digitalis therapy requires greater precaution and tight doctor-patient cooperation.

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