This test measures the amount of digoxin in the blood. Digoxin is a drug used to treat congestive heart failure and certain types of arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats. Digoxin is a medication that needs to be monitored closely, since the amount prescribed may be too much and the levels may become toxic to the heart.
This test is done on persons who are taking digoxin to determine if the dose of medication being taken is correct.
To obtain accurate results, the timing of the test is very important. If someone is just started on digoxin, it is important to wait 6-8 hours after a dose of the medication has been swallowed to obtain a blood sample. If someone has been on digoxin treatment for a long time it is important to try to obtain a blood sample just before a dose of the medicine is taken.
In order to measure the amount of digoxin in the blood, a blood sample is taken from a vein on the forearm or hand. First, the skin over the vein is cleaned with an antiseptic. Next, a strong rubber tube called a tourniquet is wrapped around the upper arm to enlarge the veins in the lower arm by restricting blood flow through them. A fine needle is gently inserted into a vein, and the tourniquet is removed. Blood flows from the vein through the needle, and is collected in a syringe or vial for testing in the laboratory. After the needle is withdrawn, the puncture site is covered with a bandage for a a short time to prevent bleeding.
A healthcare provider can provide specific instructions.
Normal values for digoxin in the blood range from 0.5-2.0 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).
Abnormal values for digoxin in the blood may mean the medicine dose is too high or too low. However, some drugs, such as spironolactone (i.e., Aldactone) , may interfere with the test results.
In addition, people with liver, renal failure or pregnant women and newborns may carry substances in their bodies that may alter the results of the test.
If digoxin levels are too high, the body could become poisoned. Serious side effects can occur such as nausea, vomiting, mental status changes, irregular heartbeat and vision changes, whereby things appear to have a yellowish tint. In certain individuals a "normal" level may still cause side effects.