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Digoxin test

Definition

The digoxin test checks to see how much of the medication digoxin you have in your blood. Digoxin is a type of medicine called a cardiac glycoside, which is used to treat certain heart problems.

See also: Digoxin overdose

How the test is performed

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.

How to prepare for the test

Consult your health care provider about the need to take (or not take) usual medications before the test.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

The main purpose of this test is to monitor patients taking digoxin in order to determine the best drug dosage and prevent side effects.

Monitoring of drug levels is important in people taking digitalis medications such as digoxin, because the difference between therapeutic levels and harmful levels is small.

Normal Values

Normal values range from 0.8 to 2.0 nanograms per milliliter.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may mean you are getting too little or too much of the medication.

A very high value could mean that you have or are likely to develop digoxin overdose (toxicity).

What the risks are

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Review Date: 5/26/2010
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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