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Reasons, Procedure, Preparation and Results of Digoxin Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

What is Digoxin?

Digoxin is a drug which is used to treat patients with long-term heart conditions such as arrhythmias or heart failure. It does not cure heart failure, but helps to control it. Since the drug is given throughout a patient's lifetime, its levels in the blood need to be tested regularly.

Reasons For Conducting a Digoxin Test

Most patients find that their condition improves when digoxin is prescribed. But since each person has a different condition, combined with other health factors, the dose has to be accurate.

  • Your doctor will order a digoxin test when he begins your drug therapy in order to ensure the correct dosage. The digoxin test monitors the levels of the drug in the blood, and allows your doctor to adjust the dosage of digoxin prescribed to you.
  • If the dosage is too high, it can reach toxic levels and prove harmful. A digoxin test helps to find out the levels present in the blood.
  • You will also be prescribed a digoxin test at regular intervals in order to ensure that it has not reached toxic levels, and that therapeutic levels are maintained.

Test Results

When digoxin is first prescribed, it takes about 1 or 2 weeks to stabilize in the blood, and in the heart (which is the target organ). Your first digoxin test should be done at around that time, in order to give an accurate reflection, of whether you are being given the correct dosage of digoxin. If you undergo the test before this period, your blood may not show the correct levels.

  • Any changes in the drug source or the introduction of any other medication, may also affect the levels of digoxin in the blood, and your doctor may order another digoxin test.
  • An intestinal or stomach illness may affect the absorption of digoxin, and may require you to go in for a test.
  • If you suffer from any kidney problems, it may affect the secretion of dogoxin from your body, which in turn may affect the levels of digoxin in the blood.
  • Thyroid problems or cancer can also alter the levels of digoxin in the blood.  

Procedure

A sample of blood will be taken from the inside of your elbow or from the back of your site.

The health care provider will first clean the puncture site with antiseptic, and then tie a bandage after the needled is removed.

Risks involved

There is no additional risk apart from the usual risks associated with the skin being punctured.

Preparation

  • Consult you doctor before the test, and ask whether you need to stop any other medication before the test.
  • Also inform your doctor, if you have any kidney problems.

If toxic levels of digoxin are found in the blood, your doctor may prescribe antidigoxin antisera, which reverses the effects.

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