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Frequently discordant results from therapeutic drug monitoring for digoxin: clinical confusion for the prescriber

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Abstract:

Abstract Background:

Digoxin remains a commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of congestive cardiac failure or atrial tachyarrhythmias. Its utility is offset by its narrow therapeutic index requiring regular blood concentration monitoring. Recent evidence suggests that a lower therapeutic range (0.5–0.8 µg/L, or 0.6–1.0 nmol/L) is associated with reduced mortality in patients with congestive cardiac failure. Therapeutic drug monitoring for digoxin is carried out by immunoassays that are well established in routine clinical practice. Laboratories using different immunoassays may be involved in monitoring individual patients throughout the protracted course of therapy. These results should be concordant to ensure consistent dose individualization and optimum clinical management. We have investigated the discordance in digoxin measurements involving five different laboratories across the Adelaide metropolitan area. Methods:

Aliquots from routine digoxin samples (n= 261) were analysed by accredited laboratories using commercially available immunoassays. Results:

The results showed that 119 (46%) of 261 samples were so varied that a different clinical outcome was indicated when reviewed by the treating physician. The differences between the highest and lowest readings from any one sample were also substantial, with 45% of the measurements exceeding 0.3 µg/L. Conclusions:

Our study shows the considerable variation in the routine monitoring of digoxin. This makes therapeutic drug monitoring difficult to interpret and complicates clinical management when treating physicians are endeavouring to avoid toxicity and optimize dosing. These results raise a significant concern for the quality of therapeutic drug monitoring of digoxin and have direct repercussions on patient care.

Keywords: digoxin; mortality; therapeutic drug monitoring

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1445-5994.2008.01847.x

Publication date: January 1, 2010

bsc/imj/2010/00000040/00000001/art00009
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