Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Maintenance digoxin after an episode of heart failure: placebo-controlled trial in outpatients.

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 19 March 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:749
  1. S M Dobbs,
  2. W I Kenyon,
  3. R J Dobbs


    The need for maintenance digoxin treatment was assessed in a double-blind, variable-dose, crossover comparison with placebo. Forty-six outpatients who had been prescribed the drug for heart failure were studied; 33 were in sinus rhythm and the remainder in atrial fibrillation. Mean serum digoxin concentrations in those with sinus rhythm averaged 1-33 nmol/l, but a lower concentration, averaging 0-97 nmol/l, was accepted in those with atrial fibrillation as six of them developed bradycardia. Sixteen of the 46 patients deteriorated on placebo, and eight completely recovered when digoxin was reintroduced; in the remainder additional diuretics were required temporarily. Spirometric values deteriorated on changing to placebo whether or not the patient showed clinical evidence of recurrence of heart failure. In a separate study of nine patients who showed no clinical evidence of deterioration on placebo, reintroduction of digoxin caused a shortening of left ventricular ejection time, which persisted for at least a month. This suggests that the inotropic response to digoxin is sustained during maintenance treatment.