Digoxin for Congenital Heart Defects

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Digoxin for Congenital Heart Defects


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Digoxin is a type of heart medicine called a cardiac glycoside. Digoxin slows and strengthens the heartbeat by affecting the natural electrical system of the heart and the heart muscle.

Why It Is Used

Digoxin is used to treat severe heart failure and atrial fibrillation that can occur with congenital heart defects.

It sometimes takes several weeks to figure out the correct dose for this medicine. Digoxin is a pill, but is also available as an oral liquid or as an injection.

How Well It Works

Digoxin might help relieve symptoms of heart failure or atrial fibrillation by slowing the heart rate and helping the heart pump blood.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking your medicine unless your doctor says to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Overdose of digoxin (also called digoxin poisoning) can happen if your child has too much digoxin in the blood.

Call your doctor right away if your child has:

  • Hives.
  • Stomach problems, such as nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Change in heartbeat (fast, slow, or irregular).
  • Confusion.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Tell your child's doctor all of the medicines that your child takes, because some medicines can affect the level of digoxin and cause problems.

Taking medicine

Know how to give your child's medicine safely. For help, see the topic Congenital Heart Defects: Caring for Your Child.

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


A blood test might be done to check levels of digoxin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Madriago E, Silberbach M (2010). Heart failure in infants and children. Pediatrics in Review, 31(1): 4–12.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerLarry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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