Pediatric cardiac medications: Digoxin

When your child is diagnosed with a heart problem it is very concerning. Understanding all you can about their condition is important to alleviate stress and anxiety. It is also important to understand the medications your child might take for a heart condition. One of these medications is called Digoxin.

Digoxin is one of our oldest medications. Digoxin is derived from the Digitalis (Foxglove) plant. Derivatives of plants of the genus Digitalis have a long history of medical use. The British physician William Withering is credited with the first published description of the use of digitalis derivatives in his 1785 book "An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses With Practical Remarks on Dropsy and Other Diseases".

Digoxin is used to 2 main situations. One important effect is slowing the electrical conduction in the heart, thereby helping to treat arrhythmias. The other effect of Digoxin is making the heart muscle work better and helping the heart pump blood more easily. For this reason it is often used in situations where a patient’s heart has extra work to do - either from a leaky valve, a hole in the heart, or a sick heart muscle.

Typical dosing for Digoxin is from 10-15 micrograms per kg (patient’s weight) for the whole day. This dose is usually divided into 2 parts typically at least 8 hours apart. Digoxin comes in tablet form but can be compounded and is available in a liquid suspension.

All medicines have side effects. Digoxin is no different. In general it is a very safe and effective medicine that is used frequently throughout the world. Side effects are rare. The most common include nausea, GI upset, and bradycardia (slowing of the heart rate). A more detailed explanation can be found on medline plus - a service of the US National Institute of Health at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682301.html.

Michael Day, M.D.

Posted by Dr. Penn Laird Jr. .