Digoxin INN is a purified cardiac glycoside similar to digitoxin extracted from the foxglove plant, Digitalis lanata,. Its corresponding aglycone is digoxigenin, and its acetyl derivative is acetyldigoxin. Digoxin is widely used in the treatment of various heart conditions, namely atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and sometimes heart failure that cannot be controlled by other medication.
Today, the most common indications for digoxin are atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter with rapid ventricular response, though beta blockers and/or calcium channel blockers are a better first choice. High ventricular rate leads to insufficient diastolic filling time. By slowing down the conduction in the AV node and increasing its refractory period, digoxin can reduce the ventricular rate. The arrhythmia itself is not affected, but the pumping function of the heart improves owing to improved filling.
The use of digoxin in heart problems during sinus rhythm was once standard, but is now controversial. In theory, the increased force of contraction should lead to improved pumping function of the heart, but its effect on prognosis is disputable, and other effective treatments are now available. Digoxin is no longer the first choice for congestive heart failure, but can still be useful in patients who remain symptomatic despite proper diuretic and ACE inhibitor treatment. Digitalis/digoxin has recently fallen out of favor because it did not demonstrate a mortality benefit in patients with congestive heart failure; however, it did demonstrate a reduction in hospitalizations for this condition. Because other therapies have shown a mortality benefit in congestive heart failure, maximizing other therapies (e.g., beta blockers) first is recommended before using digoxin.