Certain arrhythmias detected on the electrocardiogram are considered to be reliable indicators of digitalis intoxication. We have evaluated the incidence of these arrhythmias on 24-hour electrocardiographic monitoring (Holter monitoring) in 69 consecutive patients who had serum levels of digoxin determined within 24 hours of the onset of continuous electrocardiographic monitoring. According to the serum level of digoxin, the patients were divided into the following three groups: (1) group 1 had 0 to 1.0 ng/ml (31 patients); (2) group 2 had 1.1 to 2.0 ng/ml (27 patients); and group 3 had ≥ 2.1 ng/ml (11 patients). The following arrhythmias were considered to reflect digitalis-provoked arrhythmias: (1) persistent sinus bradycardia or sinus pauses (or both); (2) atrioventricular block; (3) paroxysmal atrial tachycardia with block; (4) accelerated junctional rhythm; (5) complex ventricular arrhythmias (multifocal ventricular premature beats, bigeminy and trigeminy, and pairs); and (6) ventricular tachycardia. There was no significant difference in the incidence of these six categories of arrhythmias among the three groups. In addition, there was no significant difference in the mean serum level of digoxin for patients with and without the arrhythmia within each category. Ten of the 69 patients had combinations of three of the so-called digitalis-provoked arrhythmias, with incidences among the three groups showing no significant differences. In conclusion, rhythms considered to be potentially due to digitalis intoxication are frequently observed in hospitalized patients undergoing 24-hour electrocardiographic monitoring, are frequently unrelated to the serum level of digoxin, and appear unlikely to reflect true digitalis intoxication in many of these patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine