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Hum Exp Toxicol. 2009 May;28(5):285-92. doi: 10.1177/0960327109105405.

Inconsistent approach to the treatment of chronic digoxin toxicity in the United States.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA.


Evidence-based guidelines do not exist for the treatment of patients with chronic mild-moderate digoxin toxicity. We sought to evaluate differences among specialists in the use of digoxin-specific antibody fragments and the decision to admit these patients. A sample of cardiologists, emergency physicians, and medical toxicologists was surveyed. The survey detailed four hypothetical cases of chronic digoxin toxicity created by consensus among authors. All cases had the same digoxin concentration, but signs and symptoms varied in an attempt to explore four different thresholds. For each scenario, clinicians made decisions about admission and treatment. Survey response varied: cardiologists 17%, emergency physicians 6.7%, and toxicologists 39%. Statistically significant difference was found in the administration of Fab among cardiologists (67%), emergency physicians (82%), or toxicologists (91.5%) and admission rate (cardiologists 34%, emergency physicians 28%, and toxicologists 46%). Differences exist among clinicians of various specialties regarding treatment of chronic digoxin toxicity. These differences may reflect diverse perspectives or knowledge gaps and may translate into excess cost or less than ideal care. Exploring these differences may improve patient care, improve interactions among providers, and set the stage for development of consensus guidelines and research.

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