When is digoxin indicated for rate control in patients with atrial fibrillation (Afib) (AF)?

Updated: Nov 18, 2019
  • Author: Lawrence Rosenthal, MD, PhD, FACC, FHRS; Chief Editor: Jeffrey N Rottman, MD  more...
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Answer

Digoxin can be used in the acute setting but does little to control the ventricular rate in active patients. As such, it is rarely used as monotherapy. Caution should be exercised in elderly patients and those with renal failure receiving digoxin. Digoxin is indicated in patients with heart failure and reduced left ventricular function.

A large study of elderly persons with nonvalvular AF or atrial flutter indicated that digoxin therapy can increase the risk that a patient will die within approximately 3 years by more than 20%. [69, 70] The study, The Retrospective Evaluation and Assessment of Therapies in AF (TREAT-AF), involved more than 122,000 elderly US veterans (mean age 72 years) with newly diagnosed AF or atrial flutter, almost a quarter of whom underwent early therapy with digoxin. After a follow-up period of about 3 years, the multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio for patient mortality was calculated to be 1.26 in the digoxin group. According to the investigators, the increased mortality risk was not associated with drug adherence, concomitant treatment, comorbid cardiovascular disorders, or renal function. [69, 70]


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