Acute, massive poisoning with digitoxin: report of seven cases and discussion of treatment

Clinical Toxicology
V HansteenB Skuterud


Severe digitoxin poisoning in seven patients is reported. Doses taken varied from 2 to 20 mg, and maximal plasma concentrations of digitoxin from 50 to 237 nmol/L. One patient died from ventricular fibrillation, and the course in another was considerably protracted due to severe complications. The course in all patients was more dependent on underlying heart disease than on the plasma digitoxin concentration. Based on our own experiences and survey of the literature the following treatment is proposed: Gastric aspiration and lavage followed by instillation of activated charcoal should even be performed many hours after drug intake. In order to interrupt the enterohepatic circulation of digitoxin, repeated doses of charcoal should be given. Charcoal is preferable to cholestyramine because of its better tolerability. Ventricular arrhythmias should not be treated unless they are serious, because most antiarrhythmic drugs may further impede the AV-conduction. Phenytoin is the drug of choice, because the AV-conduction is less affected or even improved, and because the metabolism of digitoxin is accelerated. Conduction disturbances with bradycardia are frequently seen and may occur suddenly. Prophylactic introduction of a transvenous...Continue Reading


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