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General Practice

Short term effect of withdrawal of diuretic drugs prescribed for ankle oedema

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 19 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:511
  1. J W de Jonge,
  2. J A Knottnerus,
  3. W M van Zutphen,
  4. G A de Bruijne,
  5. H A J Struijker-Boudier
  1. University of Limburg, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands Department of Pharmacology, University of Limburg, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to: Dr de Jonge.
  • Accepted 8 November 1993


Objective : To determine the effect of withdrawing diuretic drugs on oedema in patients prescribed them for only ankle oedema, excluding patients with cardiac, hepatic, or renal failure.

Design : Randomised controlled trial.

Setting : 15 general practices in the Netherlands.

Patients : 1202 patients aged 65 years or older and taking diuretic drugs, 63 of whom were eligible for the trial.

Main outcome measure : Change in volumetrically determined ankle oedema (oedema index) over six weeks.

Results : 34 patients were randomised to stop diuretics and 29 to the control group. In eight patients diuretics had to be restarted. Among patients who had diuretics withdrawn successfully, rebound oedema caused a temporary increase in mean oedema index. The peak level (3.5% (95% confidence interval 1.5% to 5.2%) was reached in the third week, after which the oedema seemed to be returning to the baseline level.

Conclusion : Few patients who have been prescribed diuretics for only ankle oedema clearly have no contraindications to withdrawing diuretics. If patients are unlikely to have cardiac insufficiency and careful monitoring is provided, withdrawal of diuretics seems to be feasible, though moderate rebound oedema may occur for a short time.


    • Accepted 8 November 1993
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