Digoxin toxicity treatment varies according to the specific symptoms as well as the overall health of the patient. Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, are treated with medications as needed, and supportive oxygen therapy may need to be used until the patient's health has stabilized. The use of gastric lavage, or stomach pumping, is often used along with activated charcoal to rid the body of excess digoxin. In the more severe cases, digoxin toxicity treatment may involve the use of strong medications or even kidney dialysis. Any questions or concerns about individualized digoxin toxicity treatment options should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
In most cases, digoxin toxicity treatment begins with oxygen therapy and the creation of IV access. This frequently occurs in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. A mask is usually placed over the nose and mouth of the patient so that oxygen can be introduced into the body. A small catheter, known as an IV, is then placed into a vein, typically on the arm. This allows any necessary medications or fluids to be quickly and easily introduced into the body. More elaborate breathing assistance may be required once the patient reaches the hospital.
Gastric lavage and the use of activated charcoal are relatively standard digoxin toxicity treatment methods. The gastric lavage procedure involves the placement of a thin, flexible tube into the nose and down the throat. This tube extends into the stomach and allows the contents to be suctioned out before irrigating the stomach with a sterile saline solution. Activated charcoal may then be given to help absorb any remaining digoxin from the body. These treatment methods may be used after any medical crises are eliminated and the patient is medically stable.
Special medications known as digoxin-specific antibodies may sometimes be prescribed as part of the digoxin toxicity treatment plan, although this option is generally reserved for the most severe cases. In these instances, the kidneys may have trouble filtering the digoxin out of the body, making dialysis a necessary treatment option. Kidney dialysis involves connecting the patient to a machine that removes the blood from the body, filters the waste materials from the blood, and then returns the clean blood to the body. With prompt treatment, dialysis may help to prevent permanent kidney damage, although it is common for some loss of renal function to remain, even after aggressive treatment.